What would you do if this were your last Christmas?
According to my doctor, there is a high probability this is my last Christmas.
Last summer a year ago, I noticed I was having problems with fatigue. After visits with numerous physicians and many medical procedures, it was determined I had atrial flutter. I was shocked! How did that happen? I have spent two hours on most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in a gym, for the last 30 years.
My physicians determined the best course of treatment for me was a heart ablation. They said it was a simple procedure.
On November 9, 2021, I had the ablation. It wasn’t simple! Instead of correcting the atrial flutter, I developed atrial fibrillation. The next day I experienced an unpleasant heart attack.
The young cardiologist who was and is still attending me was exasperated, and said, “You’re not responding the way you’re supposed to!” After a battery of more tests, he said, “You’re still not responding properly. I don’t think you have amyloidosis, but I want to check for it so I can mark it off my list.”
Six weeks later, the results came back, and my young physician informed me I have amyloidosis-wild.
He tells me
- amyloidosis-wild is a rare condition;
- for an unknown reason, the proteins in the bone marrow decide to migrate to an organ (and, in my case, it’s the heart);
- the skin on the front side of my heart has thickened considerably, and this is hampering the work of the heart;
- the condition is causing congestive heart failure;
- the condition is progressive and fatal after about five or six years;
- my physician informs me I have had the conditions for “a long time”;
- he says that, if I had not been a “gym rat” for 30 years, I would be dead;
- when I asked him how long should I expect to live, he replied, “Don’t count on more than two years.”
Finally, my young physician friend informed me there is a drug which has recently been approved (2019) for amyloidosis- wild. It is Vyndamax. He said I would qualify for the treatment, and I did. However, he was adamant with his timeline, saying, “Get your house in order! Vyndamax doesn’t cure amyloidosis- wild. The drug only retards the migration of the proteins.” When I saw him again in early October, I asked him how I was doing. He replied, “I don’t know! If you live until March, I will do more tests on you, and then I will know more to tell you. Don’t die before March!”
Well, the reality for me is this may be my last Christmas. So, what do I do if this is my last Christmas? This is actually a difficult question to answer. I do not have the financial resources or energy for a “bucket list.” Besides, I don’t even know what to put in a bucket. I don’t know what I want to do differently.
I know I don’t want my last Christmas to be like Lady Diana’s.
I read that Lady Diana spent her last Christmas alone. She did not wish to intrude on the Royal Christmas festivities at Sandringham. Though invited, she knew she wasn’t welcomed. So, on Christmas Eve, she informed her chef to stock the refrigerator with foods she could warm, and then she sent her staff home with gifts and wishes for a wonderful Christmas.
Well, if this is my last Christmas, what do I want?
I want to spend my last Christmas with the woman I love and have spent the last 52 Christmases with: my wife, Erlene. I would not know how to wake up on Christmas morning without her. The Christmas thing I want to do with her on Christmas Day is dance.
Erlene is a great dancer.
One afternoon in the early 1990s I arrived home to find a line of cars in front of my house, the front yard filled with our furniture, and loud music booming out of the house. It was a meeting of Young Life. When I entered the house, I found my wife upstairs teaching kids how to Shag, and downstairs I found my mother (who lived with us) teaching kids how to Charleston.
Mama attempted to teach me to dance, but I wasn’t interested then. Erlene was a different story. I wanted to dance with her. So, what little I know about dancing, Erlene taught me.
I want to dance with her on Christmas this year. Well, I was going to do that anyway!
On Christmas morning, I hope it is cold. I want to wake up early and workout before church services. I want to take a long walk, enjoy the cold, see the early morning sun, and delight in life with thanksgiving to the God who has given me life and life eternal in Jesus Christ. I don’t believe in luck, but perhaps I will find some magic in a Christmas morning workout which will carry me over another year. You know, one cannot be too careful about these things!
I want to surprise my wife by having a cheerful attitude as we put up Christmas decorations and buy presents. She loves buying presents. She loves the decorations and lights of Christmas. She relishes all the activities of Christmas. Well, not so much for me! I have been called “Scrooge.” And those who called me “Scrooge” were correct. And since I was called “Scrooge,” I did my best to play the part. I enjoyed complaining and saying, “Bah, humbug!” This year, however, I will refrain from humbugging! I’m even going to shock Erlene and hookup the electric train again. Ugh! I hope I don’t cuss too much!
Sometime during the Christmas season, I want to spend an afternoon with my son Matt, my son-in-law Rob, and friends Sam, Scott, and Tim and share a very fine cigar as we remember old times and talk football, baseball, politics, and theology. You know, the important things in life.
I delight in the lights of Christmas, and I expect to delight in them again. The contrast of Christmas lights against the blackness of the night is a dramatic metaphor for God’s grace. Indeed, “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1.5) Yes, Christmas lights declare that, in the impenetrable darkness of sin’s night where the hopelessness of despair reigned as Satan’s viceroy, there are lights pointing and leading to the One who is the Light of the World. Yes, some comprehend it not; however, others embrace and rejoice in the light. I embrace and rejoice!
The words of the Bible begin with the earth formless, void, and covered in darkness. And God said, “Let there be light,” and the light revealed the gracious and creative hand of God. In the wilderness of Sinai, from the light of a burning bush, God called Moses to rescue the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery and persecution, delivering God’s chosen people to freedom with a cloud by day and a cloud of fiery light by night. The Psalmist personifies God as “my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (27.1) The Prophet Malachi proclaims that, on those who fear the name of the Lord, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.” (4.2) Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah in terms of darkness and light, saying, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” (60.1-3) In the days of King Herod when Jesus was born, wise men traveled by night, following the light of a star to find Jesus. On the night Jesus was born, the blackness of the open field was illuminated by the light of the glory of God as angels proclaimed to shepherds the birth of Jesus, saying, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2.11) Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Light of the world.” (9.5) Jesus also says the condemnation of judgment comes because men hate the light of God, for their deeds are evil, and they will not come to the light lest their deeds are reproved. But those who do Truth come to the Light. (John 3.19-21) Finally, all the above leads to the glorious consummation of all things, proclaiming, NO MORE NIGHT! “for the Lord God will be [the] light.” (Revelation 22.5)
I love the music of Christmas. I’m not interested in Jingle Bells, Here Comes Santa Clause, White Christmas, All I Want for Christmas, or other such de-Christianizing doggerels and trivializations. Christmas announces “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” is come to save sinners such as I am. In the plaintive notes of the minor key, we sing, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and Christmas answers, “Yes! Jesus has come, and He will also come again, and His coming again is our ‘blessed hope’.” (Titus 2.13)
If this is my last Christmas, I want to hear Handel’s Messiah again. In music which is heavenly and almost divine, Handel wonderfully encapsulates Christmas and the Second Coming of Jesus. He begins with promises: “Comfort ye my people” and “For unto us a child is born.” The birth song of Jesus is “Glory to God in the highest.” The passion of Jesus is given in “Behold, the Lamb of God” and “He was cut off.” The great victory chant of the resurrection is the thunderous “Hallelujah.” The promise of eternal life is heard in “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” We are told death is conquered in these words: “O death, where is thy sting?” With a piccolo trumpet fanfare, the Second Coming of Christ is heralded, declaring, “The trumpet shall sound.” And the final acclamation comes with these words of adoration: “Worthy is the Lamb.”
It pleases me that Christmas falls on the Lord’s Day this year. I want to gather again with God’s people as I have done in all the Christmases I remember. I want to join with brothers and sisters in song, singing, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, It Came upon the Midnight Clear, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Good Christian Men, Rejoice, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Angels We Have Heard on High. And, yes, though it is not really a Christmas song but a song of the Second Coming, I want to sing Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come!
I want to sing Jesus Loves Me.
I bet that was unexpected!? But, you know, that’s the reason for the season, isn’t it?
You know, as I re-read and re-think what I have written, I don’t know how a last Christmas will be different for me. If this is my last Christmas, it will not be much different from last Christmas or the last 76 Christmases before that.
The Lord willing, I hope this isn’t my last Christmas. The Lord willing, I want to do this again next year. You know, whether here or there, I will celebrate again the story of Christ Jesus next year! But, if there, with perfect vision and knowledge!
With every best wish for a blessed and wonderful Christmas for you and your family!
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson