I love the colours of Christmas, creating combinations and themes.
It wasn’t that long after last Christmas that my eight-year-old grandson asked me, “What is the colour scheme for next year’s Christmas?”
I’d already worked that out; red, blue and purple tints that will adorn the family tree, from floor to ceiling, sparkling with white lights that pulsate with joy.
Red is a traditional colour, in carols reminding us of holly berries and the blood of Jesus. The red represents the humanity of this baby called Jesus, the reason for all these end-of-year festivities.
The blue in Scripture is often symbolic of the sky, the heavens above and spiritual beings. It is a reminder of the divinity of this baby, the Son of God.
Blending these two colours gives us the third colour for my theme—purple. For me, it represents the special name of the baby Jesus, ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us’. In this child, the divine and human natures came together, releasing potential that could only come from the creative mind of God.
Some years ago I visited a friend in a cancer centre. He lived at one of our Salvation Army facilities for disadvantaged older men and I was his chaplain. It was only days until Christmas, and he had faced serious surgery.
On Christmas Eve, I was very busy with the preparation for the next day, but making time to visit to him was more important.
He was in a single room, and in that stillness we could share the moment. There was no rush for him.
I read to him the well-known carol, ‘Away in a Manger’. Verses one and two created within our minds the first Christmas, with stars, a perfect baby sleeping on hay and background music provided by the cattle. The power of the moment came with the last verse:
“Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.”
This was our Christmas prayer, ‘Immanuel’, ‘Be near me Lord Jesus…stay close by me forever’. This was not just a visit, this was sacred space that I had entered; two men sharing in prayer, sharing in our relationship with Jesus.
Christmas Day arrived and in the afternoon I was at the hospital again. Responses from my friend had ceased, but once more I read those last words of the carol: ‘Be near me Lord Jesus…’
Staff informed me that his life support system would be turned off the following day, and that they would wait until I arrived so we could spend his final moments together.
Turning off the life support system the next morning created a quiet atmosphere in the room. The staff left us, but we were not alone that morning. Jesus was answering our prayers, ‘Be near me Lord Jesus’.
I offered a final prayer and waited for his final breath and conclusion to our prayer: ‘…to live with Thee there’.
I live with cancer, too. I’ve known for some months, now receiving chemotherapy and understanding that my prayer may soon be answered more quickly than I’d thought. I live with cancer, but I am dying to see Jesus.
Like my friend, I wait patiently for that time, to see Jesus, not as a baby but as my Lord and Saviour; to touch those scarred hands, look deep into his eyes and say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”