This year, our Christmas tree barely made it through Christmas day. So, it quickly landed in the tree graveyard in the vacant lot next door. But, most of the other Christmas decorations remain scattered throughout our rooms. So, I thought I’d take one last opportunity to reflect on Christmas. I really enjoyed Christmas this year, celebrating the coming of Christ to our world with family and friends who also recognize the real meaning of Christmas. I’m already looking forward to next Christmas. But, is that reasonable?
As usual, in the week after Christmas, I’ve seen many news stories recounting the significant events of 2016 as the media looks back on the past year. A story that I see every year at this time of year, records the famous people who died in the past year. As I scrolled through the list for 2016, I saw a wide range of ages at which these famous people died. Some were in their twenties, like Nick Lashaway, actor in “The X-Files” and several popular movies, who died at 28, and Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins baseball pitcher, who died at age 24. On the other end of the age spectrum, Abe Vigoda, character actor in “The Godfather” and “Barney Miller,” died at 94, and Tyrus Wong, whose paintings served as visual inspiration for Disney’s animated classic “Bambi,” died at 106. I also noted that famous deaths occurred throughout the year. The rock star David Bowie died only ten days into 2016 while William Christopher, who played the beloved Father Mulcahy on the television series “M.A.S.H.,” died on the very last day of 2016. It seems that famous people die at all ages and at all times throughout a calendar year. I know the same is true for us regular folk.
So, I must consider the question, “Could this have been my last Christmas?” Even though I have no known medical conditions, and I’m not that old (stop that snickering), I’m forced to realize the answer is that this may well have been my last Christmas. There is no fear in that realization for me. I believe what the Bible teaches regarding the length of my life (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16) and more importantly what it teaches about what will happen to me after this life because of my trust in the salvation that Jesus provides (John 5:24; 2Corinthians 5:8). So, my reaction is more contemplative than fearful. If this was my last Christmas, am I satisfied with how I celebrated Christmas this year? And more significantly, what do I want to focus on in these last days of my life here on earth? How can I maintain a focus on the Christ of Christmas every day?
In considering the above, I was forced to apply the same reasoning to my loved ones. What if this was their last Christmas? I must admit that this question does cause some level of anxiety in me. The prospect of being left behind by a loved one’s death is more unsettling to me than the prospect of my own death. So, this leads to some more challenging questions. Am I sure that all my family and loved ones are trusting in the Christ of Christmas? Is there anything I would regret not saying to them if this was their last Christmas? Do I need to ask for or offer forgiveness to any of them? How can I continue to live in the peace of knowing all my loved ones are in God’s hands?
There’s one final consideration. What if this was the last Christmas? As in, the last Christmas before Christ returns. That Christmas, like my last Christmas or yours, could come at any time (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; Matthew 24:37-39). That possibility puts a significantly sharper point on the questions above. But that is exactly how God tells me to live (John 9:4; Matthew 24:44). With the same excited anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas day, I should live every day looking forward to the second coming of Christ. The first Christmas fulfilled dozens of biblical prophecies, but not all of them. The second coming of Christ will fulfill all the remaining prophecies. Everything that is wrong with the world will be made right. Every single evidence of sin and all its effects on me and the earth will be eliminated. I will finally be everything God created me to be, perfect and holy (Revelation 21:1-7). Now that’s something to look forward to! I pray that I can live 2017 in daily anticipation of Christ’s return. To the extent that I can, I believe every day can be like Christmas.