I can still see her beautiful face smiling at us through one of the windows in her front door as she waved to us through the other. She stood there until our car was out of sight.
With her eyes still on the road, Mom took the money Grandma gave us to buy a Christmas tree and stuck it in her wallet. When Grandma found out we needed money that night she didn’t judge or lecture. She just gave and sent us on our way, loving unconditionally.
So off we went, hoping our loaned clunker of a car would make it to the roadside Christmas tree stand and home. Our hearts were lighter after seeing Grandma. She always seemed to make things better. It wasn’t the money she gave. That actually didn’t happen very often. It was her perspective that made the difference. Because of her hope in Jesus, she had a confidence and security that was a testimony to us, her single-parent daughter and timid granddaughter, in our uncertain world.
Mom and I sang Christmas songs as we drove and felt some of the anticipation of the season begin to well in our hearts. December was here! Maybe there would be snow! And only a few more weeks until I’d be out of school for break. We’d be together as a family for the holidays. It really was the most wonderful time of year!
Just a few short days later, the morning of December 13, Uncle Tommy and Aunt Brenda sent their precious bundled up Brienne, my cousin (although I loved that people often mistook us for sisters), off to her kindergarten class with her teacher, our beloved Grandma. Brienne had been rehearsing her lines for the upcoming Christmas program and knew them by memory. Christmas was just around the corner and there was so much to look forward to. Although, to a five year old, waiting a week and a half to open presents seemed like ages! Oh, the wonder of December!
But, the paradox of Christmas is that her inevitable companions are the best and worst of times. Polar opposites find common ground in December.
In an instant, a patch of ice coupled with snow accumulation caused Grandma’s car to flip, spinning across the road and landing upside down in a nearby creek. Oh, the horror of December!
The shopping we expected to be doing in December wasn’t for caskets. The snow crunching walks, arms linked with our loved ones, weren’t supposed to reach two freshly dug graves. The anticipation shouldn’t have been the terror of facing another day in this harsh new reality. Oh, December is severe!
But, as we would come to find out, so is mercy.
“[T]hough he was God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself [of all that was rightly His as God], by being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6,7)
Jesus, born like us. A tiny helpless baby. It just doesn’t seem right. The God who for eternity past never needed anything, now had human needs – like milk, like rest, like warmth. He who only knew self-sufficiency was now dependent. He who never knew the force of physical pain, or the drain of fighting temptation, or the throbbing headache and sick stomach and wet cheeks from weeping in deepest sorrow, now entered fallen time and space. The infinite humbled himself to experience all the burdens of the finite. Why did he willingly subject Himself to this severity?
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)
Tempted to what? Try and “whip God” by charging him with injustice? Grandpa found He could help with that. Tempted to lose confidence that he really is good? He’s also able to help with that. Tempted to think He’s not powerful enough to stop bad things from happening? There’s help for that too.
If God subjected Jesus to such severity so He could show us mercy, how will he not also graciously give us all things? Like peace. Like a deep rooted joy. Like a lasting comfort. Like strength for today. Like eternal hope for the future. Like a secure, inseparable love. Like grace upon grace.
December is here. But, thank God, because of our faithful grief-bearing, sorrow-carrying Jesus, there are mercies inexhaustible, new every morning, ready for us each day of this wonderfully severe month.