Monday, December 19, 2005

Thoughts for Christmas

My brother-in-law died sixteen years ago this week. Mike had only been my brother-in-law for 2 years. He died at 41 of a rare form of lung cancer. No, he had never smoked. He worked in the furnace room at a ball bearing plant. He left behind a widow and three sons, the oldest of whom was 6.

Mike was an interesting man. He had served a stint in the Marines, then come home to work at the factory. He kept a perfect yard and a meticulously clean house. When they hosted the family Christmas, every breakfast dish had to be washed, dried, and put away before a present could be opened. The family budget for groceries was meager, but they made it.

Since I was the preacher in the family I was the obvious choice to perform the funeral. I was fresh out of seminary and had never done a funeral, let alone one for a family member who, as far as I knew, had little to do with church or God. What would I say?

I thought a lot about Mike’s life. He was a gentle man more than a gentleman, and as trustworthy and reliable as the day is long. The quality I found in him that I actually found myself envying was his satisfaction with what he had. Mike worked hard and was frugal. He didn’t seem to have much. On the other hand, he also didn’t seem to want much that he didn’t have. As far as I could tell, Mike was happy and content with the little he had.

Saint Paul wrote a long time ago that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. I didn’t really learn what this meant until my first funeral, as I reflected on the too-short life of a brother-in-law.

And couldn’t many of us use a good dose of contentment this time of year?


At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Scott McKay said...


Thanks for sharing. We need to remember your message this time of year. We are so blasted with merchandise each day we begin to believe the lie that our happiness is tied to what we can own. The secret is to want what you have rather than getting all that you want.

I have a similiar story. One of my first funerals was for my Aunt who died before Christmas in 1984. Her service was the day after Christnas. She was 65 and diabetic. I read the Christmas story and reflected on the mixture of joy and sorrow.


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