Christmas can be a particularly difficult season of the year for us. It is a time full of nostalgia, which can make our heart long for someone we’ve lost or a time now past. We’ve lost some dear saints this year from among our family. And over the years, we have lost a whole lot. So Christmas can cause a twinge of sadness to our hearts, even as we tell the story of the coming of Savior to Bethlehem once again.

This year, I stood at too many graves. Fresh reminders of the pain of our sin and the despair our rebellion brings to this world and to our lives. Eileen and Georgia and Leslie and Les and Dan. These are men and women who have touched and enriched our lives.  They were involved among us and we loved them dearly.

Eileen sang in the choir and worked in the preschool and counted the offerings for years. Eileen inspired me to age with grace and even greater hope in Jesus. Her love blossomed later in life.

Georgia was at the bedside of everyone in the hospital, as long as she was not sick herself. Sickness eventually overtook her, and yet she never lost that Georgia smile.

Leslie prayed for this church family and her family – and dug roots into our lives. She endured much suffering with grace and hope. Always hope.

Dan was a “Berean.” He kept us on track and faithful to the Scripture. He taught me what faithfulness really looked like.

Les. Well, Les did just about everything around here to keep the building and grounds as healthy as possible. He’s the one who used to hang all the wreaths at Christmas and put up the trees. As his health declined, God brought along some younger folks to pick up the baton.But if you take a careful look at the trees this year, you may just find a tribute to Les and his ladder exploits.

This week I couldn’t help but think back on the investments each of these beloved saints have made in our lives. I thought of the great cloud of witnesses which are surrounding us, as the writer to the Hebrews so eloquently points out. These are all heroes of the faith at least to me. They teach me to get rid of those things which slow me down. They teach me to keep my eyes on Jesus. He’s the one who leads us and makes our faith complete.

This Christmas, their first in glory, is hard for us. But not for them. It is because of the humility of the Savior that night in Bethlehem, His willingness to come down here – that we have hope for them up there. So I have renewed energy to run with patience the race that is set before me. We aren’t at the finish line quite yet, so let’s keep moving forward. As Esther always says, one day at a time. One foot in front of the other, even if life is hard. And even if a particular season is difficult. We have hope that the baby will one day rise from the dead. And that fact changes everything. Believe.