It doesn't seem so long ago that I was in their living room, praying and talking. It was a difficult diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Three to six months, was what the doctor said.
They had had other plans for the future. He wanted to build a house for his wife and their teenage daughter. But he thought he had more time.
It wasn't so long ago that I was in their living room, talking about how they were going to spend the next three to six months, hoping to find a treatment that would give them just a little more time, and just a little less pain. Time to have friends help them finish a house -- their dream. Time to see children and grandchildren. Time to be alive.
And then this week I was there again, because he had decided to stop treatment, and go on hospice. We talked, and shared communion. He was on hospice, but he still had time.
Yesterday I was back. He was no longer talking. We prayed with him, and sang to him, and read scripture. Romans 8. Isaiah 43. John 10. "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me," we read. "As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul length after thee," we sang.
His wife pointed out one of his hands. It was outstretched, and clenched, as if he was holding someone's hand. With one hand, he would hold on to us. But with his other hand, he was holding on to Jesus. Or Jesus was holding onto him.
It is December 21st. Just three days until we light the candles, and sing Silent Night in the dark. Just four days until the Feast of the Nativity, December 25, when the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. I think about what I learned in Greek class about the word "dwelt", and that it meant "tabernacle". It was a reference to the Old Testament, when God lived in a tent, a tabernacle, a temporary shelter. In Jesus, God tabernacled with us, in a temporary shelter, human flesh, like ours.
I think about this man who was dying, and his savior, who also wore our mortal flesh. He is a Savior we can hold hands with. That is what the incarnation means. It is about the baby in the manger, the baby we can hold, and it is about the one who holds us, really and truly.
It is so close to Christmas I can feel its breath, I can almost see the flickering flames of the candles that we hold while we sing. It is so close to Christmas, so close that I can almost reach out and hold hands with Jesus. I can feel his small fingers around my finger, I can see his hands touch a blind man, I can see his hand grasp the hand of a dying man -- and hang on.
Maybe this is all we can do in life: hold hands. Hold hands with one another. and hold hands with Jesus.