Christ Child Calms Christmas Crisis

As I write this blog entry, I’m sitting by my pool on a balmy December 26th morning, sipping my meal replacement shake and vowing never to punish my stomach again the way I have over the past several weeks. And even though I’ve lived in Lakeland my entire life, there’s still something not right about being in shorts and a tee shirt the day after Christmas. Come quickly, cold front!

Knowing I was due to post today, I assumed I would write about the “What Now?” of post-Christmas life, or reflect on some potential early New Year’s Resolutions. However, something else has captured my thoughts this day, something that drops our family to our knees in gratitude to our Lord for his sovereign grace and mercy.

Christmas had a quite different feel this year for the Wilsons and for our extended clan of Harrells and Strawbridges. We had planned to celebrate the birth of Christ with traditional family routines. My immediate family would gather at our house on Christmas Eve for a meal and gifts. We would then host the Wilsons for Christmas Day lunch, yet spend much of the day in my mother-in-law’s home laughing, sharing memories, eating, and exchanging gifts with my wife’s side of the family. Three young children would add to the excitement of the Christmas festivities.

However, this year’s Christmas “journey” took a far different route. It all started Sunday evening, two days before Christmas. While sitting in a movie, we received a text that our brother-in-law, Ted Strawbridge, had suffered a heart attack and was in an Emergency Room in Ocala. This was surreal news, coming out of the blue. Suddenly, my popcorn with extra butter (actually, liquid cholesterol!) tasted stale.

Yet, soon we learned that he was stable and would have a heart cath Christmas Eve morning. Hoping for the best, I assumed they would likely find some sort of plaque build-up (Ted has lived in the south his whole life, where Paula Deen’s style of cooking is a culinary requirement), put in a stent, and Ted would be good to go. We all waited anxiously for the report.

In the fastest cath lab to operating table I’ve ever heard, Ted was whisked off to open heart surgery. On Christmas Eve. You see, our beloved brother-in-law needed six blocked coronary arteries bypassed. Yes, six – including the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery, the “widow maker,” which was 90% blocked. Cutting to the chase, without the marvelous grace of God, Ted was a walking dead man and Mary Lu, his wife, was a 50-year-old widow-to-be.

So, when I tell you that my Christmas afternoon visit with Ted was the best chat we’ve ever had, you can now understand why. What a privilege to forego the deeply entrenched family Christmas traditions in Lakeland for the opportunity of spending time in Ocala with this Godly man and his dear family.

On a Christmas Day that appeared topsy-turvy, it was really as it should be. God gave us Ted for another season, so there wasn’t a place I’d rather be than with him and his loved ones.

And you know what? Christ was in our midst this day — the One who was born in a humble manger, lived a perfect life, and died to redeem our brokenness. This One of whom the angels proclaimed was also with Ted, all five hours of surgery. The King of the Universe was ever present!

That’s why, today, rather than reflecting on gifts received and simply scrounging for leftovers, I proclaim with those angels – “Glory To God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”