I start with the photos, because most of us need a good laugh now and then. And after the holidays, we need the comfort of knowing our own family doesn’t own the corner on weirdness.
So---here is my entry in this Hall of Weirdness or, the Hall of What-Were-They Thinking? Of course, we're just deadly bores after all that fun:
And----that tinsel-y day is now over. For some of us, our houses are still full, though. The tree is still up. Russian Christmas comes soon after, for all the Orthodox and Russian Orthodox in our community. But eventually it all comes down. The kids get on planes. Families shrink. Quiet returns. Routine returns. And a kind of sameness that threatens to swallow us. Sometimes we look to the year ahead and see nothing, imagine nothing new or good or happy . . . This is a kind of death.
In the last two weeks, after my jaw surgery, between and among the festivities, I tasted death. A particle would make its way to my tongue. Something hard and white … I soon realized it was bone. Pieces of bone rising up through my lacerated gum. Bone that was grafted onto my jawbone to make way for implants later. Bone not mine. Bone from another who had died. It sounds better to say it this way than the other: “Cadaver bone.”
And so, in the season we sing about a Savior born to us, in the days we are thinking of the New Year, death is on my tongue, in my mouth. Someone has died and gifted me a part of their own body. It is not as grand and dramatic as others----a young man dies and his heart is given to one who will die without it. Eyes given that another may see. Kidney, liver, organs gifted after death that others may live. Not so dramatic for me. Just for teeth, that I may chew . .. but it is powerful all the same.
I remember again this truth: Death is ever with us. that baby in the trough has been born to us to die for us. Even as we ornament the tree, music playing, a house filled with love on a cliff over the storming ocean, on ocean where fishermen have died.
The year itself is gone, already becoming the past, history. Pieces of this year will rise to our tongues and our memories like pieces of bone . . .
It is all mixed up together, always, the end of life in the midst of life. These would be morbid thoughts, except, in the economy of Christ, death counts enormously, and it goes somewhere. Death leads to freedom.
Remember this freedom?
"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death!"
Oh soul, yours and mine, do you know what good news this is?? I have been living in a kind of death these last two months---and not just cadaver bone in my mouth. I mean that self-condemnation that annihilates us in all the wrong ways. The kind that consumes us, bones and all. And the law of death and sin, that feels inescapable---that leads us to do the very things we don't want to do, surely you too have known that kind of slavery as well . . . ??
But remember: Christ has set us free from all this!! And if we don't hear those words, hear these: "It is for Freedom that Christ has set us FREE! Stand firm the, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
I have to say that again:"Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
Maybe this freedom and joy leads to spectacularly ridiculous family photos----but I hope it bears better fruit in this coming year: the freedom to love, the freedom of open doors, the freedom of fearless servanthood, the freedom to give ourselves away.
Like someone did for me in giving their bone.
Like Christ did for me in the giving of his body and blood.
Glory be! Don't waste this good death. We are SO Freed!! Would you live out this freedom with me in 2015?