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Today would have been my grandmothers 88th birthday. I reflect on that because she died this past October. Personally, the past year has had a lot of sad events for my family most particularly the passing of my last surviving grandparent and the death of my wife's father leaving her without parents and no maternal grandparents for my children. These are simultaneously sad and celebratory events because we are saddened by the loss of our loved ones, but we can celebrate the faith that they died within.
Each year is full of some tragedy for someone as each year people die, become sick, or face suffering of some type. At the same time, each year is full of some joy as people marry, children are born, new relationships begin, old relationships are restored, and many things that bring joy occur for most people. No year is full of just suffering and the converse is true, no year is full of just joy. Much of it is based upon the things that we reflect on the most. It would be easy for my family and I to look at the past year in a negative light because of the two sad events that occurred in our family at the end of the year. Though my grandmother had been in decline with Alzheimer's for years and the ability to have a relationship was hampered not only by the disease, but also by distance, there was comfort in knowing that she was still there and the thought of visiting her in the future was a possibility. The passing of my father-in-law has a higher level of sadness since his decline was recent and his death came much more quickly. Both my grandmother and my father-in-law were the same age (my father-in-law would have been 88 at the end of January) and that makes their passing much more poignant. The point of relief in my spirit is that they both are no longer suffering or having to struggle and that I know that both had been claimed by Jesus Christ as they were washed and given new birth in the waters of Baptism and were marked with the Cross of Christ.
As we are reminded in Titus 3:5-8a, "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy." The act of salvation is done through Jesus Christ alone and not by our own actions and when we cling to the promises given to us we receive what was promised. God's gracious hand carries us through our times of suffering and sorrow and carries us into times of celebration and joy.
As the door closed on 2019, it is good to reflect on the joys of the season and look forward to what God has in store ahead for 2020. Yes, there will be struggles in the coming year just as there was in 2019, but to focus on the areas where things could have been better only causes us to miss out on all the great and wonderful things that God has done and may cause one to miss out on what God is doing. God desires for us to always be thankful for what God has provided for us and hopeful for what God has in store.
In the coming days, let us reflect on where God blessed us in the past year and pray for God's blessings in the days ahead!