Date: December 23, 2012
Text: Luke 1:26-33 and 46-55
Writer: Rev. David Hart
Janice Williams tells the story about the time the family’s 14-year-old dog Abbey died. The day after she passed away, their 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if they could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. Janice told her that she thought they could, so she wrote while 4 year old Abby dictated the following words:
“Dear God, Will you please take care of my dog? Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I 'm happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith “
Janice says they put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey & Meredith, addressed it to God/Heaven. They put the family’s return address on it. Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. And that afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. Janice told her that she thought God probably would have it by now but never expecting a reply. Well, to the family’s great surprise, about two weeks later, a package wrapped in gold paper arrived on their front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter Abby and Janice had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I'm sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love. It was signed, I Love You, God.
Now, here’s my question for you this day. How do you think Meredith felt when she received that letter? Losing a special pet is one of the first traumatic experiences of loss that children experience in life. What impact will that letter have had on Meredith’s experience of loss? What impact will that letter have had on 4 year old Meredith’s entire future outlook towards life? The anonymous postal clerk working in the dead letter department of the post office was not just a genius with regard to human nature but also someone who profoundly understood the healing impact of love on life, who understood the very status, and purpose of love within the matrix of life itself.
Today is the last Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas, a Sunday traditionally associated with the theme of love. And what the Christian faith proclaims on this day is that the birth of Jesus was a letter to humankind in response to the accumulated grief and loss and pain experienced by the small nation of Israel and through them vicariously by all of human kind. And this is what God’s letter via Jesus was intended to say.
My Dear, Dear Children:
I have heard your cries of anguish and grief over thousands of years now, over and over again. I heard your cries in the time of the Roman Empire when my Roman children behaved so badly and cruelly towards my Jewish children. I hear your cries and feel your anguish as my Jewish children today behave so poorly towards my Palestinian children. I see and feel the incredible grief that mothers and fathers experience when their little children, my most precious little ones, are gunned down in the places you send them to keep them most safe and secure, your schools. I feel your anger and pain when spouses and intimates who once loved each other break apart and families are filled with anger and sorrow. I feel the betrayal when loved ones betray each other and trust is broken. I experience your helplessness when the wealthy take advantage of the weak, when the rich steal from the poor and your anger when the powerful and mighty betray the trust put in them by the community they are supposed to serve.
And, my dear children, don’t just think you are my children. All the animals and birds and fish of the seas, all the trees and flowers and the earth itself are part of me … and when you hurt them, how I feel their pain too.
My precious children, how can you have you gone so wrong? Sometimes, I feel like such a failure as your parent. What hurts me the most is when you shut me out of your lives. Some of you don’t even believe anymore that I exist. And the rest of you behave as though I don’t exist, as though I don’t know how you live and treat one another. You ignore me, like you ignore so many of the elderly you put in nursing homes.
But this Christmas I am sending you a special gift. The most precious gift in my life is that of a child. And I know your most precious, most prized possessions are your children. So I am sending you a baby. But not just any baby. This baby is me. Because you have stopped believing in my invisible eternal presence, I am coming to you in the form of a human baby, someone just like you. I hope you will love this baby … I hope you will love me as a baby. And I promise you, that as this baby, when I grow up, I will show you exactly what my love for you is like.
I love you all so very, very much. I feel your pain so very, very much. Maybe this Christmas, when you see me, just maybe it will remind you of how I intend you to live with one another and with the world, with the same love that I feel for you. My very nature is love. My intention for your lives is love. I did not create you for wealth and status and power. I did not create you to hurt one another, to betray one another. I only created you for love and to love this beautiful creation I have made for you. I hope that my coming to you as a baby can remind you of this, this Christmas. I love you. God. So be it. Amen.