Our little village has been filled with mixed emotions this week. We’re an active community of just a few hundred people with a small main street of older homes and four churches. Four churches, you may ask, with so few people? But each church is a different Protestant denomination and although we all have a common theme in our belief, Jesus Christ, each denomination has a slightly different doctrine or emphasis from the others. Even so, we’re all just Christians who try to live our lives according to our consciences and our understanding of God’s Word. We all blend beautifully.
Our small Presbyterian church is filled with the delights of the Advent Season during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. But for two years in a row, our Holy Days have been saddened by the sudden death of two good men in our church and community. Al Williams passed away suddenly Friday after a brief illness. Our grief is strong. His lovely wife, Janesta is heartbroken.
Al was an unassuming man. Wherever you saw him, he was just Al. Not “Elder of the church” Al. Not “owner of a beautiful home and nice things” Al. Not “well educated and intelligent” Al. Although he was all of these and more, he was modest and unpretentious. No matter what station in life – rich or poor, well-dressed or unkempt, college graduate or high school dropout, Al made no judgments and treated everyone with respect. When Al asked you how you were doing, you knew he wasn’t just making small talk – he genuinely cared. Our church and community is a much better place because of all the lives that he touched.
Our calendar of activities continues despite our sadness. Our Lighting the Way services that are held on the third Sunday of Advent each year went on as planned today. Our community meets on Main Street and starts lighting candles that are placed in lanterns leading from one church to another. We stop briefly at each church for worship with music and scripture and move on to the next until all the candles are lit. As I watched the candles being lit tonight, I was reminded of the light that takes us out of darkness. Jesus is the light of the world and through Him we reflect the light of God’s love and grace to others. Al was a reflection of God’s love and grace, and as we continue our spiritual journey lighting our Advent wreath in the days to come, our hearts will quicken with each flicker of the candle. We will remember that our good friend Al is now in God’s light and will be in His presence forever. Maybe, just maybe, our sadness will be tempered with joy in that knowledge.