I had lunch last week with a friend of mine. I met Tracy at the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation, an intensive two-week academy for rising juniors and seniors in high school. The Academy is one of the most amazing programs I have experienced. It is based upon our baptism - about what it means to live out our calling as baptised individuals who have been bathed and claimed by Christ. And, it is transformational in every sense of the word.
The extended community of DYA was heartbroken this year, consumed with grief, when a DYA alumnus was struck by lightening while playing soccer and killed. The young man was on the soccer field, practicing a game he loved with his high school classmates when his life came to an end all too soon.
Tracy told me a story that was relayed to her by the young man's pastor. The young man's body was prepared for viewing. Just before his family said goodbye to him, his father slipped a metal cross on a colorful ribbon around his neck. It was a cross given to him at another formative youth event. The cross was made of metal and it meant a lot to the young man. The young man's body was then cremated. Yet, something unusual happened.
The parents went to get their child's ashes and opened the box. Inside of the box were the usual ashes but the metal cross rested on top of it all.
The cross should have melted.
The heat of the crematorium should have consumed it.
But it did not.
The cross endured.
The cross endured!
I have thought a lot about Tracy's story in the last several days.
It seems as though this time of year can remind us about everything that we do not have instead of all that we do have. We are reminded often of the loved one who is no longer with us because of death or divorce. We think about the people who were once part of our lives but who are no longer. We see families knit together perfectly, enjoying the holidays, and we wonder why we do not have the same bliss. We worry about our finances and our health. We experience the pain of loneliness. Yet, the cross endures.
It does not matter what we are going through during this time of year. No matter how dark things may appear, the light shines. The light shines and the darkness has never overcome the light. Life begins. Life ends. But the cross endures - promising us all that even death itself cannot extinguish the light.
Thanks be to God. Amen.