The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 RSV

This year, Advent began with a funeral. He was a good old friend, one who has laughed with us through many a New Year’s Eve. We will miss him. The toughest part of aging is losing those we love—one after another.

There was a time when something like this would have cast a pall over my whole Christmas season, leaving it sadder, darker, lonelier. There’s no doubt his wife and family will grieve; I grieve with and for them. But I no longer “…grieve as those who have no hope.” (Thessalonians 4:13)

For, thanks to John Eldredge’s wonderful book, “All Things New,” my hope is brighter than ever. I now share his vision of the eternal life we are promised—not clouds and halos and harps (b-o-oring!)—but Eden restored, our world as God created it, as He intended it before the Fall.      After all, Jesus didn’t promise us all new things, but “all things new.” (Revelations 21:5)

Imagine, Eldredge says, the most beautiful places we have seen at their most perfect moments—perhaps the mountains on a “bluebird day,” or the ocean at sunset, or a meadow lush with wildflowers. Then picture ourselves at our very best doing what we love with Him and all those we love in a world like this…forever.

My heart leaps just to think about it.

Our friend loved snowmobiling, for instance. The walls at the funeral reception were filled with the pictures of him sailing down mountain trails on his good old 1967 two-track. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture another dear friend (who’s also Gone Ahead) greeting him with a cry of joy: “It’s about time you got here! Come on! You won’t believe the mountains…and the snow!” And the two of them zooming off, laughing like kids on Christmas vacation.

How could I wish them back? Part of me can’t wait to join them…on skis, of course.

The darker our world becomes, the brighter God’s Light shines—the light of the Hope and the Promise kindled in that stable all those years ago.

Jesus came to make a way, indeed, to be the Way to this wonderful world we all dream of. He took on the darkness in all its fury and conquered it. For us.

This is God’s Christmas gift: one nothing can steal, break, diminish or separate us from. (Romans 8:35 ff.)

Jesus has—and will–come. We have hope, no matter what. So we can rejoice, no matter what.

Merry Christmas!

FATHER GOD: Where are the words to thank You for the world made new? I bow in awe. Amen.

First published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle, December 12, 2017.