As winter draws upon us, another year closes out. On these dark nights we gather with family and friends to celebrate, to feast, to laugh and rejoice. The holidays fill us with joy and gladness; the moving of the calendar gives us pause to reflect and reminisce.
What was 2018 to you? What memories linger, what challenges were faced, what obstacles did you overcome? As your mind flits over the year that is passed, where do you pause, your memory filled with joy, regret, warmth or sadness?
When the last chapter of my life eventually closes, 2018 will go down as a year to remember. It was a year of great happiness and deep sorrow, of great heights and dark valleys. It was one for the books, as they say.
In 2018 I lost my father to cancer. In 2018 I wed my beautiful bride. In 2018 my daughter graduated from high school and we took a cross-country trip to celebrate. In 2018 I moved from the house I had lived in for 12 years and began to settle into a new community.
From the heights of romance and love, to the depths of unspeakable grief, I felt it all this year. From the pride of a father watching his child succeed in life, to the abiding sorrow of a son losing his own father, I experienced it.
This is life, with its ebbs and flows. Sometimes we stand atop mountains and gaze at the splendor of the world around us, our very breath taken away at the beauty we experience. At other times we trudge through valleys, lost in a claustrophobic fog of pain and doubt. One unexpected lesson I learned in 2018 is that sometimes you can hold both joy and sorrow in your heart at the exact same time.
The Wisdom Literature reminds us there is a season for everything: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to dance. As a pastor, I regularly walk these paths with people. This year I’ve held newborn babies and I’ve laid a child to rest. I’ve stood with couples joyously pledging their lives together and I’ve sat with people picking up the pieces of their lives in disaster’s aftermath. I’ve been to the top of the mountain; I’ve sat in the icy cold grave.
Here is what I’ve been certain of throughout it all: I never doubted my father’s love. I’ve never doubted the love of my wife and my children. I’ve never had to doubt that God is good even if life is hard. Over and over again I’ve watched in amazement as this community that we call the Key Peninsula has risen up in celebration at the good times and shown up to help and support in the hard times.
Life is about the people God puts in our lives to share the journey with us. Jesus said we most clearly see his face when we reach out in love to one another. As Christmas and New Year’s Day come, I encourage you to stop, reflect and remember in gratitude the people who have walked beside you. Rejoice for the blessings but give thanks for those who join us in hardship as well.
On behalf of Lakebay Church and the Key Peninsula Ministers, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and offer a prayer that 2019 will shine brightly with hope and laughter. May the light of Christ shine upon all our pathways, and lead us into the way of peace.
Award-winning columnist Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.
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