We have, hanging in our home, a stunningly beautiful painting by Liz Lemon Swindle of Christ in Gethsemane. This large painting is approximately 5’ x 4.5’, and is positioned on a wall that faces our dining room area. I love the idea of having this very emotionally charged, and profoundly thought-provoking depiction of Jesus in Gethsemane hanging in such a place. It is near the physical center of our home where we move about and pass by it on a regular basis…where we gather to eat and laugh and play around the table…where we pray on a daily basis…where it is easily seen from the kitchen and family room. It hangs at the beginning of the hallway where our daughters retire to their bedrooms, or where a guest may pass to use the restroom. It has become part of the atmosphere of our home.
On first viewing, it stops you in your tracks. It represents the sorrow and suffering of “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.” But after a while, its abrupt and attention-demanding intensity softens…not that our appreciation for His costly offering is lessened, but the repetitive viewing gently diminishes the painting’s severe and very present harshness. And while I pray that no one in our family will ever forget the reality of that harshness, having this image in a place where we participate in so much joyful sociality has become a beautiful lesson for me.
The question demands asking: How can we sit and eat and laugh while a portrayal of the suffering Christ is right there with us?
Ah…here we come to the magnificent reality of what He did! By His terror-filled agony, Jesus bought us our smiles, our laughter, our delight, our joyful sociality…not just here on earth, but in eternity. Anyone who believes in Him as we do in the Cope home, must acknowledge that without Him and what He did for us, life would be most hopeless and dark. This would be an even more cynical, “survival of the fittest,” “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—and die for good—world! One has to wonder if even the “bright recollection of all our guilt” and uncleanness before God (which now is so mercifully muted) would be unleashed upon us in its awful fury if it were not for the gift of an intervening Savior.
On the other hand, earth life in a saved condition, all because of the Atoning One, fills us with a hopeful energy, turning our sorrow into tears of joy. We find ourselves looking towards the future, facing death without fear. We want to repent, and we seek to live with compassion and integrity. We gather our loved ones around us and truly taste a divine sweetness in their company. Where would any of that be without our Lord?
Today, my wife, Kathy, and I celebrate our 25th anniversary. I have to ask myself: What could we possibly celebrate if Christ had not done what He did for me and my treasured bride? Oh, blessed Jesus, I owe you all!
Finally, for all who love Him, Christmas is about Jesus. And rightly so. But I believe, that for Jesus, Christmas is about us. He didn’t come to earth to get His name in the newspaper, or in the history books, or even on the walls of church buildings around the world. He didn’t come because He hungered for recognition and praise, like a vain man…because He wanted a holiday or two set aside in His honor. He came because we were down here, fallen and broken, groping in darkness with spiritual amnesia, wandering and lost. He came down here for us…to save and to rescue…to cleanse and to heal…to fix and to make new! He came to give us a reason to smile and laugh in mortality, and to believe and hope for greater things to come…a better world, where everything is better…where WE are better…and where He is currently preparing mansions for us to inhabit. Jesus came so that people who really do love each other can have a fundamental conviction that their love can continue…and that nothing, not even death can extinguish it!
Merry Christmas, Lord Jesus! And Happy Anniversary, sweet wife! :)