Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Irony of Death and Christmas

Death has hit my family and I once again as we faced the burial of my brother, Mark, Monday, December 19th, just days before the celebration of the miracle of Christmas.

Almost seems ironic to write that in the same sentence, death and celebration; death and miracle; even death and Christmas.  But isn’t that what the idea of Christmas brought?  Death.  God sending His Only Son Jesus to be born into the world, to live a sinless life and become a sacrificial lamb, to take upon the sins of the world and to DIE, so that we ALL may have eternal life.  Even those the world counts unworthy.   Those like me.   Wretched one that I was.  But God.

The miracle of Christmas… Jesus coming to earth and being born TO A VIRGIN in a manger.  The celebration of Christmas… remembering what it means that “Unto us a Son was born, unto us a Son was given and He shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and of His Kingdom that shall be no end.”  Death and Christmas… the reason Jesus was born.  To die.  To save the world from their sins.  Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.  Christmas!

Now I know just the idea of Christmas gets some people worked up.  I hear it all the time.  Oh, it’s a pagan holiday!  Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th!  Christmas is so commercialized.  Whatever.  For those who want to deny it and refuse to celebrate it for whatever reason, it’s insignificant to me, really…  Jesus WAS born.   It doesn’t matter the day He was born, Sunday, Wednesday, or Thursday.  It doesn’t matter the date, the 22nd, the 25th, the 14th or the 31st; the time, or really the time of the year.  Don’t get so caught up on that or you’ll miss the message.  JESUS CHRIST WAS BORN.  For if you deny that you deny His very existence.  And He had to be born FIRST, so He could die.  And with that death, came victory.  OUR VICTORY.  Our victory over death.  O, death, where is thy sting?!

Death and Christmas equals victory.  Victory over oppression.  Victory over sickness, victory over poverty, and yes, victory over death.  Yes, victory over death!

This I know is an extremely hard concept to grasp, as the disciples told Jesus, we’re going to have our faith increased to grab hold of it.  And I have struggled with that over the past year and a half following Joseph’s death, and then my mother-in-law’s death last Spring, and even now with my brother’s death, in this season we call Christmas.  The time of miracles and celebration. 

But at the same time, I can’t help but to be encouraged, because in the words of Jeremiah, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope, it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.  His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning.”  God is faithful to remind me of this Scripture that He gave me as part of a foundation when He first saved me over 16 years ago, 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, o, death is your victory?  Where, o death, is your sting?”  I really never understood why, being a baby Christian at the time, but He has always spoken from it and continues to do so time and time again, reaffirming that death is NOT the end.  And it has been defeated, no matter what it feels like in the natural.

While we ache for our loved ones on the earth (as I do), it stinks and it does sting (in the natural).  But as we are called to be spiritual beings, believing what the Word says, death has no victory, therefore it has no sting.  Because not only has it been defeated it is NOT the end.  Life is only beginning for our loved ones.  And if we receive Jesus and believe what He has done for us starting with the miracle of Christmas, we will see our loved ones again.   God put in motion a plan to defeat death in the miracle of Christmas!  Because of Jesus Christ being born.  And it worked!

Because of Christ, because of Christmas, even because of death, our loved ones that have gone on and received Jesus are in a far better place.  A place as the Scripture says, where there are no more tears, there is no more sorrow, there is no more pain, there are no more meds to take, there are no more breathing issues, or cramped legs, or legs who cannot move or legs that give out.  There are no skin diseases, lesions or conditions or the like.  There are no cancers of any kinds, brains are operating and people are in their right minds.  There is no more worries… no more drama.  NO MORE DEATH.  Death has been defeated!

First Corinthians 15:51 says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’   This is what just happened to my brother (and Joseph, and your loved ones, too).  When he fell asleep, when death came upon him on this earth, his body that was perishable, mortal (able to be destroyed), was then clothed by GOD, with that which cannot be destroyed, with that which will last for eternal.  And death, his death, has been swallowed up in victory!  It has been wiped away.  He has come through triumphant! 

And from that point of view, I can say just as Paul did, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  And thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  A reason to celebrate the miracle of Christmas, even NOW and always. 

Blessed Christmas and peaceful season,
Sis. E


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Tis the Season... to be Mindful

This Christmas season marks the second year that I am without my Joseph.  The second Christmas that my family and I were robbed of the opportunity to celebrate with our loved one.  The second Christmas the man who killed my son, gets to celebrate with his family, while… well… we don’t.  And although the season is barely getting underway, already somehow it has taken a toll on my emotions. 

In the whole first year that Joseph was gone, I not once broke down while I was out.  Oh, don’t get me wrong!  I’ve shed a tear or two.  Was saddened.  Was shakened.  And even felt like screaming.  But never have I gotten to the point where I came to a complete standstill, so totally lost in my emotions, that I had to flee from my environment.  That’s where I was yesterday.  That’s where I was again today.  Not a good place.  And one I’d rather not visit.  

As I mustered up the strength, again, to gather myself together, I was mindful of what brought me to where I was…. The season we are in.  The celebrating (or not).  The holiday music and songs.  The Christmas trees, lights and the d├ęcor.  People coming together (or making plans to do so).  All.of.it.   Then I heard a song on the radio.  “This Christmas.”   A classic.  Only this one was the version sung by Chris Brown, when he sang it for the so-named movie.  You see, that was Joseph’s favorite Christmas movie of all time.  And unlike probably the rest of the world, the best version of the song he ever heard.  (Still shaking my head about that one).   So when I heard the song immediately I thought of Joseph and what may have made me smile last year, made me sad this one.  Extremely.  

The more time passes, the more it seems to hurt.  (I have to say this again and I can never say this often enough, TIME DOES NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS.  Only God can do that).  But I yet know that it’s a different kind of wound, a different kind of hurt.  A different kind of pain than that initial one.  Than that one that takes your breath away.  If I had to explain it, it’s more of a learning how to breathe with a new heart kind of pain.  Like you can breathe better, but it pinches when you inhale.  Yeah.  That kind of pain.  You feel better, but it yet hurts.  

Anyway.  Once I gathered my thoughts together I started reflecting on the time of the year and the season that we’re in.  And God spoke.  ‘Tis the season to be mindful.  Even for me, even for us, we need to be mindful of others.  

Christmas, the holiday season, is one of the loneliest times of the year.  It is also a time where people become stressed out, more so than other times of the year.  People are depressed.  And although people tend to believe that suicidal rates are at an all-time high this time of the year, they are not, but this is the time of the year that propels them into depression.  Then over-time, thoughts of suicide become more apparent as distractions from the holiday disappear.   Be mindful of people.  Those who are alone.  Those who have more on their plates than they usually do or perhaps more than you do.  Look out for them in some way or see if you can lend a helping hand, or ear.

This season people are more prone to crime than other times of the year.  Those that don’t have money who would more than likely steal, steal.  Those that you would think would not steal, but want to “give” to their loved ones, steal to do so or even to make ends meet during the holidays.  Be mindful of them.  Maybe you can offer to make a meal or buy a toy for a child.

People tend to socialize and drink more, so there are more driving accidents.  There are more distractions now more than ever.  People are Facebooking live while driving.  Side note:  PLEASE… DON’T DO THAT!   I take this very personal.  Joseph was killed by a driver who ran a red light!  Do not believe for one moment that it cannot happen to you or you will not be the one who will kill somebody else.  NO-THING is that important that you have to FACEBOOK LIVE while you are driving. 

The holiday season is filled with people who have lost loved ones (as myself).  There are people that have gone through separation, kids of separation.  There are people looking in the face of eviction or who are already facing homelessness.  There are some who have just suffered major financial stability, lost jobs.  And there are some that have just been diagnosed with health issues and are battling some real diseases.  This very season.  Be mindful of their suffering.  Of their sadness.  Be a little more kind.  Smile a little more.  You may never know what that might mean to someone.

In the midst of your celebration, remember that someone else may not feel like celebrating. Or like me, they may want to celebrate, but as they try to, it causes them pain.  Be mindful of that.  In the midst of your singing, someone else is crying.  Be mindful.  In the midst of your decorating, someone is packing up their belongings to be stored away somewhere until they can find a place to live.  Be mindful of that.

I am certainly not asking for anyone to do anything for me or anyone else for that matter, that the Lord has not moved upon them to do.  I sincerely believe that when the Lord tells us to do something it is not a burden and that no matter what happens, absolutely nothing and no one, can stop you from doing it.  So please, this is not what this writing is for.  I do believe that God wants us to be mindful of others going forth.  Especially now.  Especially in this season.  Christmas is a time of giving.  It is a time to show forth love. Sacrificial love.  Isn’t that what Christ did for us?     

Lastly, I was reminded of a word that my hubby shared in 2008, “A Tale of Two Seasons.”  (You can find it on our YouTube channel, here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex-1-o0KScc).  God is amazing, because as I got this written word in my spirit, this sermon popped up on my timeline.  I encourage you to watch it, because in it, Pastor Jeff speaks about how God tells the story of Christmas and how it is two seasons.  One where people are happy, and another where people are not so happy.  There are people who were angry, like Herod (who wanted to kill Jesus) and there were people who were grieving (all the mothers of the babies who were killed by Herod, and some others).  And then he goes on to say how God wants us to be aware of it.  For a reason. 

Jesus is that reason. 

‘Tis the season… to be mindful.

Still serving.
Sis. E and Joseph’s mom

#ripmyjoe
Joseph Malik Fannell
January 14, 1993 – June 5, 2015

www.josephmfannellmemorialfund.org