There it was again—that old familiar ache. I stood inside the house our children fondly called “the ‘cation house” when they were small—our retreat for rest and refreshment for the last fourteen years—watching through the window as the tree crew went to work on the big live oak right outside. Even though it wasn’t mine, I didn’t want the tree removed. I didn’t want things to change. I wanted the house and everything in it to stay the same—not for the sake of the tree or the house itself—but for what they represented…time.
I feel this same ache when our youngest finally outgrows the shorts that each of my boys have worn in turn. The feeling hangs in the background as I leave the driveway of my grandmother’s home, wondering if this could be the last time I see her wave from her favorite place on the porch. It whispers in my heart as I part from old friends. It collects like a lump in my throat as I pack away little baby blankets and tiny shoes. It’s there as I look into the changing faces of my children, the aging faces of parents, the empty seats at the family table…it’s the grief of goodbye…of time lost, of not being able to go back or hang on.
We do not like goodbyes. Goodbyes mean something is gone…that seasons have passed…that our world has changed. Goodbyes remind us of the curse of sin. They are like little deaths—losses—that remind us of the death that forever separates.
In light of all this, how amazing is the truth of Christmas! That the Son of God would choose to subject Himself to the same 24 hour time period as you and I—that the eternal One, who always has been and always will be, would choose to say goodbye, in order that those who believe in Him might not ever really have to again. All our deaths, our losses, our griefs—big and small—are never truly the end for us. Because He came, we have hope…timeless hope.
This Christmas will be different, as each year brings new changes. The world is different, my children have grown, we’ve all become older…but my Savior is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word will not falter, His promise is sure. And as C. S. Lewis once exclaimed to a departing friend, “Christians NEVER say goodbye!”
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15: 54, 57