So, imagine my surprise then when, adorning the floor area in front of the chancel, I saw three beautiful funeral arrangements. I remembered that the day before the church had held a funeral for a member who just went home to the Lord but, found myself instantly captivated by the sight....and by the irony. In my church the Sunday of rejoicing is not only met with the pink candle on the advent wreath being lit but the entire church bursts forth the decorations of Christmas and, later in the afternoon, the choir shouts forth beautiful hymns of advent in a concert for the entire community. So, there I knelt, staring at two 25 ft tall evergreen trees decked tip to stump in Chrismons and twinkling lights, and...funeral flowers.
My eyes trailed to the altar and, for some reason, my eyes were caught by the edge of the white altar covering and the pole that holds it in place running through its side. Suddenly my mouth went dry as I thought back to the previous Holy Week and the stripping of the altar. I could still see in my mind Pastor pulling the rod out so the covering could be gently folded up and removed, leaving the altar naked and bare.
I looked from the flowers to the trees over and over and it hit me, the life of a Christian truly is constant irony. It's black and white, sinner and saint, weeping and laughter, repentance and absolution, Christmas and Good Friday, Good Friday and Easter, death and life.
Suddenly I loved those funeral flowers. They made a very bold statement that I do not think was intentional on the part of the person who left them. We hold hopeful, expectant vigil as we await our Christmas feasting but on this side of heaven Lent will come once again, as will Good Friday. It will come in our lives too...suffering, sickness, depression, misfortune, destruction, torture, war, death...but there's a reason we adorn caskets with flowers. It's not some kind of departing "thank you" note to the deceased, it's a testimony of life.
Those flowers are a testimony of a promise, a declaration of faith. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ WILL come again, and when He does, He is taking us home.
I wish I could arrange for there to be funeral flowers on the third Sunday in Advent every single year. Gaudete Sunday was the first Sunday after my Dad's deadly plane crash. I remember thinking then how ironic that was, and yet, how wonderful. We rejoice even in death because Christ is coming for us, and when He does, oh Happy Day!!!