Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Births, Two Deaths, and a Hope

Multiple times over the last couple months while anticipating the holiday season, I have thought that Christmas would have a new and deeper meaning for me because of Samuel and his birth and death. At some point Kathryn and I were talking about this, and she asked me to explain. At the time the only explanation that I could find was that I have a greater appreciation for the fragility of the human condition, especially for the manner in which we enter the world. All babies are born completely dependent. Samuel’s condition was so tenuous that not only was he unable to help himself, no one else was able to help him. The thought that God would send His Son into this world in such a state is astounding to me. Honestly, it seems crazy, beautiful, unfathomable, absurd. I love Bono’s perspective on this: “…I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in ‘straw poverty’; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me. As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me.”

At the North Point staff Christmas party this last week, I wept while singing the Christmas carol “O Holy Night.” It was the first time in a while that I’d really cried. I was grateful for it. Over and over throughout the song I thought of broken parallels between the birth, life, and death of Samuel, and the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I was playing the two stories simultaneously in my mind.

As I reflect on my few minutes weeping to a Christmas carol, the reason for my anticipation of the Christmas season is clearer. In the story and message of the Advent merge the two things that are most present on my heart and mind these days: my son and my Savior. They are the stories of the birth of a son. For me, both are births of great anticipation. Jesus was born into this world weak, frail, and dependent just like Samuel. Jesus was the Son of God and Samuel a child of God. Both lives end in tragic deaths that highlight for me, in the most personal of ways, the brokenness of this world.

For all of the parallels, however, they are very different stories. For that I am extremely grateful because one story gives meaning and hope to the other. Jesus was born to save Samuel from sin and death and pulmonary hypertension and coronary fistulae and heartbreak. Both have died, but Jesus lives. The fact that Jesus lives, that He was resurrected from the dead, is the basis for hope. There is no hope for Samuel apart from a resurrected Jesus, and there is no resurrected Jesus apart from him being born – as both the Son of God and the Son of Man – on this earth.

Since Samuel’s birth I have regularly felt stretched to my limits in two directions. On one hand I am pulled toward heartache and weariness. I miss Samuel, and I am tired of the brokenness of this world. On the other hand, I hope more than I can ever remember hoping. The hope that I have as a follower of Jesus – a hope for an eternity with no pain, tears, or death – has moved from an occasional pleasant sentiment to a consistent longing. More and more I feel that the Christmas story echoes this tension, and that the gap between the two is filled with God’s grace.


  1. Bryan,

    This incredibly inspiring perspective shows how powerfuly our Heavenly Father has used you and Kathryn to touch the lives of others through Samuel's death. Your grief has provided you with a remarkable voice that will forever be your son's legacy in this empty world. Thank you both for sharing your most intimate feelings as you continue on this journey. Emily and I continue to keep your family in our prayers.


  2. I continue to share in your grief during this Christmas season. Thank you for sharing your amazing faith and hope and I will pray for God to shower you with peace above all understanding as well as love and warmth during this season.