Tying up loose ends over the holidays

Published 2:35 am Saturday, December 20, 2014

This season is known as the “Holiday” season because of the congestion of holidays that fall between late November and early January.  Holidays, by their very nature, break up the monotony of our day-to-day routine.
Work schedules are shortened for some, as they are allowed to take days off.  Work schedules for others are lengthened, as they have to work extra shifts to meet customer demand or to make ends meet for Christmas.
Then too, the winter holidays, in contrast to the summer holidays, are usually spent indoors.  The temperature this time of year will not permit any prolonged outdoor activities.  Of course, the winter holidays also occur on the days of the year that have the least amount of sunshine.
The shorter, cooler, darker days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, naturally lend themselves to introspection.  It is as if, on the annual calendar, right at the end of every year, God gives each person a chance to look back over that year, and indeed, over their lives.
Yes, there are parties, galas, balls, shopping and suppers with friends, but there is also an abundance of quiet time.  At the very minimum, there is at least more time to reflect at this time of year, than at other times of the year.
It is in these times, in the deadness, darkness and dying of the approaching winter, that the soul is sometimes forced to reflect on his or her life.  I use the term “forced” because reflection for most of us is a hard thing.
The very last thing that most of us want to do is to look back.  This is the exact reason why the holiday season is not a joyous time for some.  There are too many memories of Christmases gone by; too many memories of relatives and loved ones who are no longer with us.  Far from being sweet memories, quiet often these memories are just about traumatic.
Then too, this time of the year is the time that God will use a man or a woman’s own conscience to expose the true condition of their lives.   Just like a visit from the ghost of Christmas past, we are forced to look back over where we fell short.  Indeed, sometimes we do feel haunted, oppressed and even depressed.
In fact, I was recently visited by an older, retired middle class gentleman.  This man comes off as being a very spiritual man.  His first contact with the church was through a call he made to my office in the middle of the night.  He was crying and sounded as if he was being literally tormented.
He wanted to come and talk with me about something that happened almost twenty years earlier when he was in his early fifties.  He didn’t want to talk to his pastor.
He didn’t want to talk to anyone in his family.  He wanted to travel to Vicksburg because he knew that I didn’t know him or anyone he knew.  He wanted our conversation to be that confidential.
He explained that he was being troubled in mind and spirit by events from his past.  He said that he felt like there were some decisions he needed to make.  He also told me that he felt like time was of the essence.
Then he asked me, very pointedly, what this period, his latter and indeed almost the last portion of his life was about.  I told him that it was about tying up loose ends.  In the words of Isaiah the prophet to Hezekiah the King, in 2nd Kings 20:1, it was about “setting his house in order.”
Nobody wants to die.  Nearly all of us will try to avoid it. We don’t even want to talk about it.  Children don’t want to talk about their parent’s demise and parents definitely do not want to talk about the demise of their children.
In the very same spirit of avoidance and spiritual repugnance, very few want to tie up loose ends either.  In fact, I would venture to say that the overwhelming majority of the human race dies without tying up loose ends.
Yet God gives us all – sinners and saints – a chance to do just that.  Let us consider the prophet Hezekiah, who was a righteous man.  2nd Kings 18:3 reads in part that he “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.”
Yet, this great and righteous king is told to “get his house in order” or rather he is told to tie up some loose ends.  Generally, we tie up loose ends in the last quarter or so of our lives; just as we are more introspective during the last quarter of each year.  We tie up loose ends during the winters of our mortal existence.
If God allows us to live long enough, we will travel through the “spring” of adolescence and young adulthood; on to the “summer” of full adulthood and parenthood; then to the “fall” of mid-life and being grandparents and finally to the “winter” of older age.
It doesn’t matter where you are physically or in terms of age, you will always be presented with the opportunity to tie up loose ends.  God allows every person (both young and old) seasons of reflection and introspection.  These seasons are those periods of time where we are forced to slow down.
This “forced” slowdown is either because of the holidays, the cooler weather that comes along with them which forces us to stay indoors and be less active.
This forced slowdown could also be from a sickness as it was in the case of Hezekiah, or it could even be due to a surgery with a long convalescence, or it could even come through the demise of a loved one in which we are left contemplating their lives.
As we near retirement age, there is also the slowdown that comes with the cessation of secular employment.  Whatever the cause of the slowdown, its ultimate purpose is to give us a chance to think about where we have been spiritually and emotionally.
Our Creator gives us a chance to think about what we have done to others, and, yes, time to think about some of things that were done to us as well.
We are presented with the time to reflect on the conversations we did have around the dinner table as well as on the ones that we should have had.  It is through these times of quiet introspection and reflection that we grow spiritually and become better, whole, and more complete in our humanity.
Thank God that we still have time to think and reflect on holidays past, so that our present holiday and any future ones we may have, will be all the better, because we will be better.

Rev. R.D. Bernard is pastor at King Solomon Baptist Church. He can be reached at 601-638-7658.

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