My friend’s son passed away last spring. He was a young man, whose life was taken by cancer far too soon.
My friend texted me a picture from his son’s memorial service. In the picture, friends and family sit smiling in their church pews, each holding a shiny, white helium balloon at the end of a silver string. It was, according to my friend, not so much a funeral as a party.
The next day I stood in front of the people at the Lakebay Church and told them, “Death thinks it has power. The grave thinks it has the final say, but we have balloons. We win.”
I was reminded of that picture in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris. We all watched in horror as violence and destruction rocked the City of Light; we mourned with the French people, if even from a distance.
Within a few days, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published their next edition. The cover showed a dancing man, riddled with bullet holes, holding aloft a bottle and gulping from a glass. The accompanying text said, “They have weapons. . .we have the champagne!”
It’s ludicrous, of course. Champagne in the face of automatic weapons? It’s as silly as balloons in the face of death.
It’s almost as preposterous as the Christmas story. Herod had an army. Rome had the might of empire. The forces of hell stalked the dark night, bringing death, destruction and violence. Against all of that came a baby.
This baby, the story says, was the ultimate weapon, sent to overthrow powers of evil and death itself.
Later this month Christians worldwide will be remembering and celebrating a tiny infant, born in a stable, announced by angels and greeted by shepherds. One small child, yet the terror of tyrants and terrorists alike.
In the darkest night we will sing “Joy to the World.”Choirs will cry out “Hallelujah!”Families will gather around tables to feast and celebrate. Champagne will flow. Lovers will dance. Children will delight at all the sights and sounds of Christmas.
It’s exactly what we need. This world can be a dark, painful place, with danger and grief waiting around every corner. If we’re not careful, we’ll get sucked down into the endless cycle of anger, blame, and retribution.
If we allow grief to take away our joy and hope, then we’ve lost. Instead, we need balloons. We need champagne. We need to dance. We need to remember the baby that was also a Savior.
We must celebrate, laughing in the face of death with our silly balloons, our drinks held high. We must remember that love wins the day, because that baby was the demonstration of the greatest love. We spite the darkness when we dance and sing and rejoice.
We say to those who would do us harm, “You may have guns and bombs, but we have balloons. We have champagne. We have Christmas. And so we win.”
On behalf of the KP Ministerial Association, I wish you all a peaceful, joyous, and merry Christmastide.