Many of us lost people this last year, and our little family at 1517 was no different. We mourn the loss of Jeff Macaré, the voice of our Blogcast, but, more importantly, a husband, father, son, uncle, and friend to many of us.

At the recent memorial service for Jeff, I didn’t hear much about him at all and, even though Jeff was a lead singer, I think he would not have had it any other way. Jesus, as God’s final answer to funerals and mourning, was center stage throughout. The service affected everyone deeply. There was a sea of tears. After the service, several of Jeff’s friends put together a feast with amazing Malaysian cuisine, fine wine, and video equipment for sharing pictures and some clips of Jeff waxing eloquent and blissfully unaware that it was being viewed posthumously. Jeff was bigger than his size, and every time I talked with him, he would get deeply invested in the subject, especially if he perceived that I was in error. These interactions were challenging, other times irritating, but mostly fun. He wanted everyone at their best. He loved sitting down with friends and sharing what he had to offer, whether that was whiskey, music, or whatever he could drum up in the way of wisdom and humor. He was a friend more than happy to share a joy or trouble. He was always fully invested in his opinions, wrong or right, whether it was a band, how to pronounce Gouda, or a theological point. I guess I believe in the resurrection more now because I can’t conceive of a world where Jeff isn’t around. He will be sorely missed.

Christians do have a hope that those who sleep in death will be awakened and their joy will never end, and we yearn for that day. Death does not have the last word. That belongs to Jesus, who conquered death in his own death and took us all with him. We are joined to that death through our baptism into Christ’s baptism (Romans 6)—joined with Jeff in that baptism. And we shall all be raised as Christ is raised to a life without the tears of loss that we suffer now (1 Corinthians 15).

When I was small, Christmas was pure wonder and joy and generally free from this kind of loss. Our house was always festive, and every sense was elevated. The Christmas tree, always a Douglas Fir, which we had picked out and cut down, would stand proudly in our living room, bare when we went to bed and completely decorated Christmas morning. Presents, in their colorful wrappings from Santa, my parents, and sister, spilled out from under the branches. Tinsel and ornaments adorned every archway. Christmas pillows were on the couch. There was always some telltale damage of a cat fighting with an ornament. A well-worn, heirloom creche sat on our entry table along with the many Christmas cards we had received over the previous days and weeks. The house smelled of pine, cinnamon and apple, ham and bacon because breakfast was just around the corner. My dad and mom, bleary-eyed, stood there to greet my sister and me. The grandmas and cousins would be arriving in a few hours. It was an amazing morning.

Now, the folks are gone, and my sister is on the other side of the country, and all Christmas decorations, as joyous as they are, take on a patina of grief. As I grow older, most years I lose people now. The decorations are a little harder and heavier to put up. Still, I do so to remind myself of the gift of God, that my parents were gifts, and that Jeff was and is too. All my friends and family, whether living or dead, have been this for me, and I trust that we will all gather together again under the Tree soon and very soon to enjoy the perpetual day of a new Christmas.