Searching for a hole punch in a junky cabinet yesterday, I came across this. It was a bent-up scrap of cardstock that had been stuffed behind a crayon box and some cookbooks. The scrap was one of the drafts I had printed ~ a draft of what was going to be our family’s Christmas card last year. ‘Going to be’ is the operative phrase here. For after 14 years of hand-making them, 2016 was the first year I refrained from creating something that I truly love… our family’s Christmas cards.
Last year – 2016 – was the year my father passed from this life to his next. And I, still in the throes of grief and the anxiety of missing his presence in our home Christmas Eve, kept telling myself that of ALL the years I must absolutely create a Christmas card, it should be this one. After all, it was a significant year in the life of my family, and I should honor my father’s life with a card about him this year. A year when our Faith hit home, and all we have ever told ourselves about the importance of our Faith, was being tested. After all, we celebrate the birth of Christ because He was born to bring us abundant life, Everlasting Life, that would be accomplished through His sacrifice thirty-three years later. His birth, life, death, and Resurrection are the pinnacles of our Faith. Since my youth, I have been taught – and believed with unwavering belief – that at the time of and through our earthly death, we are united with Christ. We go Home to Him. My Dad was finally Home with Him.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 6:3-11
So since it was Christmas, I must do a card. Do it for my Dad. What a silly thought, in retrospect.
My Dad didn’t need me to do a card for him. It was I who needed to prove to myself – and I guess everyone else – that I could rise through my grief and just get it done. Once again, what a silly thought, in retrospect.
So it didn’t get done.
It was ‘The Christmas Card That Wasn’t’.
Looking back, it would have been a pretty depressing Christmas card, anyway. But it has a powerful message that I still feel compelled to share.
I cherish this song and what it means to me and our family. It was one of my father’s absolute favorites, and I never even knew it until he was very, very sick. Multiple times during his 10 years of surgeries and hospital stays from Baltimore to Nashville, he would sing this to me whether in person before I left his bedside, or over the phone. Dad would sing it with every ounce of strength he could muster. And those are some of my most beautiful and treasured memories of my father.
I have shared The Wayfaring Stranger numerous times over the years and listen to it regularly… when I need to feel a connection to my Dad. But the last time I heard it sung in my presence was when my cousins sang it during a tearful duet on March 4th, 2016 – during Dad’s celebration of Life. It was the next best thing to hearing it from my father, himself.
So in honor of my father, I will leave you with this…
Bill Monroe, by himself, singing The Wayfaring Stranger ~ my father’s favorite rendition:
And I guess when it comes down to it, the message of The Wayfaring Stranger is actually quite appropriate for the Christmas season. After all, Jesus of Nazareth came to us as a stranger, himself, and ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem‘. (Isaiah 53: 2-3)