Written by Rev. Emilie Wierda - All Saints Anglican - Holland, MI
Today marks the 88th birthday of my dear mom.
She has outlived my father by more than 25 years and counting.
This is a particularly significant year to count our blessings.
There has been much news and divided opinions over counting votes.
We are taught in Psalm 90 to count our days:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (v.12)
One rabbi took this directive seriously. As the story is told, he bought a jar and filled it with marbles for each day of a life span of 80 years. Each day he took out one marble and put it in his pocket to remind him this day was unique, just as each marble was unique, and it would soon be over. The marbles in the jar continued to deplete. Each day he would ask himself the question, “How am I fulfilling God’s purpose for me today? What will I have to offer for another day God has put me here in this 80 X 365 day life?”
According to the psalmist, we have 70 years. Only 80 years, or 29.200 days, are promised to the strong (v.10).
The pandemic has made us all question, “Who are the strong?” There are seemingly healthy people well under the 70 year mark who are struggling to survive the COVID19 virus. And there are those well past the 80 year mark who are breezing through a bout with virtually no symptoms.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
As we celebrate Advent, a new beginning once again, we are counting the days until Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Lord. Our grandsons, aged 3 and 4, are counting the days with an Advent calendar filled with chocolates, anticipating each day closer to the day of celebration. On our advent wreathes, this is the Sunday we light the pink (or rose )colored candle, the day that symbolizes joy. James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, tells the believer in the first few verses of his epistle:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing (v.2-4)..
We pause as we are counting and wonder at these words. Do we want to discuss Christmas and joy and suffering all at the same time? Can we really count trials with joy? What do we really mean by “joy” anyway? Beloved theologian Henry Nouwen defined joy this way:
Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing--- sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death--- can take that love away.
So we count our trials as joy when we remember that God loves us so fiercely, he came as a humble, dependent baby, lived as a child and died as a man just to prove his love for you and for me. Nothing can separate us from this Love.
Count your remaining days and make them count.
Count your blessings.
Count it ALL joy because-
Joy to the World! The Lord is come!