About two weeks ago, I received an invitation from the Reverend Tracey Lloyd Smith to share a message at the annual “Blue Christmas Memorial Service” at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Prescott.
I had never preached at such a service in the past. In fact, I had never attended a “Blue Christmas” service. I was somewhat perplexed at my response. I told Rev. Tracey that I would be happy to accept her invitation.
In subsequent e-mails, I found out what she was hoping for in my homily, and would I select a reading that would speak to what I was going to share.
Today (Sunday, December-01-13) was the day of the service. Dave and I went to Prescott not knowing quite what to expect. I didn’t know what the order of service would be (we Anglicans do love our liturgy), whether or not it would be appropriate to wear robes (we Anglicans do like to dress up), or how many people would be in attendance (we Anglicans do seem to be ‘numbers’ conscious).
This was one of those moments in my life when I did not have any answers to any of my questions – it was one of those “wait and see” moments.
The passage I chose to preach from was John 11:1-44 – the death and resurrection of Lazarus. What struck me was the comment from both Mary and Martha, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” And this was reiterated by the mourners who surrounded them.
How did I relate that? Well, I shared the story of the death of Dave’s dad, Frank, in 1993. Frank’s tradition, after Mildred (Dave’s mom) died in 1991, was to spend Christmas Eve with his daughter-in-law in Clinton and then come to us for Christmas dinner the next day. Only in 1993, instead of coming to dinner Frank died.
All that went through my head was if he had come to dinner he would not have died – rather like the sisters telling Jesus that if he had shown up on time Lazarus wouldn’t have died.
And, in all honesty, those thoughts rattle through my gray matter every year at this time.
But regardless of the thoughts that I have, I know the truth. God had called Frank, and it didn’t matter how many dinners were planned for that day at my house, Frank was going to have dinner with God that night.
Back to today. Funnily enough, over dinner Dave asked me if I felt that what I shared with the thirty-some people who were in attendance this afternoon was helpful in any way. My response was, yes.
After the service people came and told me they appreciated hearing my story, and then they told me theirs. When someone can share the stories of their pain and sadness, it is a time of healing. It is a time of knowing that God is present in their lives.
This Advent season, if you feel burdened by sadness or pain over the loss of someone you love, leave it with God. God has more strength than you or I will ever have.
Share your story with someone, so you can feel the healing power of God touch you in the relating of memories and stories that are so special to you and the loved one you miss.
Rev. Sue McCullough
Anglican Parish of Morrisburg, Iroquois & Riverside Heights