The Cover and Title Page
While the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is for many a time of joy (though in our fast paced culture perhaps not one of peace) – for my family the warmth of Thanksgiving and the delight of Christmas is greatly tempered by the sadness of loss. For just over a year ago, between Thanksgiving and Christmas my mum past way from cancer.There is nothing pleasant about grief, nothing beautiful about loss, but in some unfathomable working of the divine there can be truth, goodness and beauty that comes from a life lived in joyful submission to the baby in a manger.What follows below is the tribute I gave at my mum’s thanksgiving service. It is my hope and prayer that some small drop of the great ocean inspiration that she was to me might flow to you this Christmas.-----------------------------------------Charles Spurgeon observed that it is far better to carve your name on hearts than on marble. For Dad, Andrew my brother and I, and I know for everyone else here this is true also, because in many different ways, Alex, my mum, carved her name in our hearts. And what was so wonderful about her was that she carved her name in love.For if there is one word to sum up my mum’s life it would be “love”. As John Stott remarked at my parents wedding “They love God, they love the world, they love each other.” Indeed, to know Mum was to see in her love for the God who saved her, a love for her family and a love for the world and a desire to see it reconciled to God. And so in all this she radiated the very nature of God, the God who is love.Despite being the language of Shakespeare, English is sometimes limited in its expressiveness. We use the word “love” to both describe our favorite food and express our deepest feelings. However, in other languages, ancient Greek for example, there are four words for love. And one I think particularly captures the life of my mum, that is agape love, sacrificial love, Calvary love.It is this word the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life used to describe his, and God’s love for each and every one of us. And it is this love that God calls each of those who believe in him to demonstrate. And it is this love that so many of us knew from my mum. This “other person centeredness”, a desire to serve and help, even when it is costly or hard was the cornerstone of her being.It is our nature when we hear a phrase like “God loves us” to imbue it with our experience of love. Yet in our brokenness, in our bent out of shape lives, we cannot grasp this divine love in its full depth. Yet we can catch glimpses of what this perfect love is. For most of us this first understanding of love comes from our parents. And so for me, this is my mother’s greatest gift, a life of love.Shakespeare observed “all the world's a stage” and in so doing showed he understood that we all have a story to tell, that we all live out that story, each and every day. We may not decide all the characters or every part of the plot, but we do shape how it plays out, we shape what sort of story it is going to be.And my mum chose to have her story be one of sacrificial love, it was one that sought to show, in both word and deed the fingerprints of the Author of the great story, that sought to show God’s love, to model His grace and to live His truth.My mum’s life showed me what it means to live out a sacrificial love story. For perhaps the greatest film about love is not Titanic or Romeo and Juliet, but The Passion. My mum’s life has taught me that our stories matter, each and every one of us.She taught me that our stories can be good, can illustrate the sacrificial love that she so magnificently showed, but the greatest lesson of my mum’s story, is that if we want our story to be the most true, the most loving, the most inspiring, the most wonderful that it can be, it needs to be written by the great Author, the Creator,God.In closing I’d like to share some words from CS Lewis about this.
And for us this is the end of her story here on earth. But for her, it is only the beginning of the real story. All her life in this world has only been the cover and the title page: now at last she is beginning Chapter One of the Great Story. A story which no one on earth has ever read: but which goes on for all eternity: and in which every chapter is better than the one before.