“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Most of us have been forced to say goodbye to loved ones as they travel back to their homes after a joyful visit. The change of pace and noise around the house changes like the Mississippi weather. The smile on the faces walking up the driveway is replaced by the feeling of sadness as they drive away.
Our kitchens and living rooms are quiet again. The sound of familiar voices and the pitter-patter of tiny feet are gone. Those moments, those gatherings, will never be the same. Like the Greek sage Heraclitus said, “You can never step into the same river twice.” That’s the deal—even if the same people gather next year, we will all be a little different. The river of time remains in a constant flux.
At Christmas, many people take down their decorations as soon as the day ends. I guess I’m a nostalgic soul. I like to keep them up for several weeks after everyone leaves. It allows me to reflect on the joy of family and friends as long as I can. Let us swirl the memories around, even the painful ones, until they are eulogized by time and brought into focus by heaven’s gaze. Let us keep golden memories afresh like the aroma from a freshly baked pan of chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen oven.
We can revolt against time, but time always wins. And when it does, it can bring in the pain of loneliness with a vengeance. Elvis Presley was asked how he would describe his life in one word. He said, “Alone.” The fame and fortune of the most famous entertainer in the world could not deliver him from the wolf of loneliness. We are made for more than that; we are made for fellowship.
Jesus came to be a friend of all men. But unfortunately, the religious men of his day accused him of being a “friend of sinners.” You and I were created for fellowship with God—a never-ending and unbroken fellowship. However, because of our sin and rebellion to the truth, our fellowship and intimacy with God were broken. Yes, regardless of how we view ourselves or prop ourselves up with defense mechanisms or ego trips, all of humanity is broken. It is this brokenness that makes us feel ‘alone.’
Family gatherings should remind us how sweet fellowship is. It should reveal how we care for each other. These times of catching up with family should cause us to pause and give thanks for loved ones and the memories of those who have left this world.
The only thing that our family gathering can not do is last forever. This is where the Gospel reveals the real meaning of fellowship and time. Jesus came to reconcile us through faith. He changes us from the inside out. Christ not only fulfills the heart of fellowship, but He gives time the final integration point of meaning. Ultimately He does something remarkable—He defeats time. How? By promising to always be with us regardless of the event, regardless of the trial, regardless of the pain, or the pleasure. Yes, even when others leave… He is still there!