A Lifetime Engagement….
Forth-eight years ago tonight, Janet and I got engaged – on Christmas Eve, 1972. We were both young but it was clear to us that we were made to be together and we took the step of committing our lives to each other. We were married eight months later, on August 24, 1973. Certainly, the wedding itself was important but the older I get, the more I realize that the real commitment happened when we decided to spend our lives together. Because marriage is a journey, not just a date on the calendar when a grand party was held to celebrate the union of two people. Since then, there have been tough years and great years – and then, there is this year – a year like never before! We have weathered them all and stayed the course that was laid out for us by God before we were even born.
That night so many years ago, Janet and I visited my parents’ home the night of our engagement where we had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner – as was customary in our family. We were married almost two years when Kristin, our oldest child, was born. Since then, until tonight, we have been surrounded by family on each Christmas Eve. We have even adopted Janet’s family tradition of bringing in Chinese food each December 24th. As the kids have grown up, and the grandchildren have come along and grown as well, we always have a house full of people to celebrate with.
Christmas morning Janet and I host the opening of the family gifts and it is habit to show up in pajamas – a tradition that started when our own children were very young – and they still show up that way each year. It’s great to see the next generation follow in their footsteps as well. Then, the entire family has breakfast together. The menu never varies – I don’t think anybody could stand it if there was a change. It is gratifying to know that we have instilled memories that the next generations will cherish for the rest of their lives.
And then came tonight – Christmas Eve 2020. For the first time since December 24, 1974, Janet and I will be alone once again in the morning. Kristin was born in 1975 and our Christmas mornings changed forever as children entered our family. But those first two years, in their own way, were very special. That’s what I am remembering tonight. Our parents and grandparents are all gone now – we are the oldest generation. The kids and grandchildren have already expressed their sadness at missing our traditional Christmas breakfast together. They know the importance of family and unity.
It is heartwarming to know that family gatherings are important to all the generations. In this world that is ever changing, we need constants that we cling to and even though we may miss each other this Christmas, we all know that safety is the most important factor this year.
Janet and I have still put together the breakfast items and we will package them up for each household. Then, I assume that we will make a socially distant excursion to each home to drop off presents and food. We will do the same with our traditional Christmas dinner. Cooked here – but delivered across the area to each of our children’s homes. And for the first time in decades, Janet and I will open our gifts to each other alone. That’s okay… It reminds me of our first Christmases together – memories that I don’t ever want to forget. It’s kind of a back to basics Christmas – and we all need that in our lives from time to time.
Jesus offers us the same back to basics Christmas every year. Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, we are reminded of the birth of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem. The Savior entered our world in the simplest of ways – not as a king on a white horse – no! As a vulnerable baby in a manger. And when we get caught up in the stress, it’s important to recall that Jesus is the reason for the season.
When we think of exchanging gifts with each other, it’s important to know that Jesus came to earth to give each of us the ultimate gift – Himself. So no matter whether you are with a group tonight, or celebrating alone as Janet and I are, Jesus is always present in the midst of our traditions.
As Janet and I quietly celebrate the anniversary of our engagement 48 years ago, we know that Jesus has also made an eternal commitment to us – He will be engaged with us forever. Our verse for tonight speaks of the love that God has for us – the love that caused Him to send His Son to us, in a manger, more than 2000 years ago.
The prophet Isaiah, from whom we receive most of the prophecies of the coming of Jesus, tell us in Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
My encouragement this evening is that we are celebrating the eternal commitment that God has made to us through His Son, Jesus. My prayer is that each of us can, in the midst of this pandemic, rest in the firm knowledge that we are loved by God, without exception, and that we will have His peace, now and forever more. Merry Christmas! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…