An essay in the book Creative Spirit Musings
A few years ago, while stringing Christmas lights on the bushes in front of his house, my elderly father caught his shoe in a crack in the pavement and fell hard on the driveway. He was admitted to the hospital with a broken hip and remained there, in the rehab wing, until after Christmas.
I'm sure he wished for a do-over on putting up those lights. Can't we all relate to the desire to turn back the clock, sometimes only for an instant, to un-do an unfortunate incident? You back out of a parking space, and smack into an unseen car coming down the lane behind you. You say something uncharacteristically catty about a friend, and find her standing in full earshot of your remarks. You arrive in a foreign city, and suddenly remember that you left the iron on at home. You fumble the ball during overtime, and your team loses the game, the pennant, or the whole season. Do-over, please!
When I bemoan my avoidable failings, such as a sinful act, an opportunity missed, or a careless accident, I recall the lines of John Greenleaf Whittier:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,Clearly we cannot go back in time to make better choices, however much we wish we could. But the good news is (the Good News is) we do get a do-over on the things that really count.
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'
Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior, is a do-over with cosmic consequences. The greatest mistake of all, throughout history, was the fall of Adam and Eve. Through their error, the first humans condemned all subsequent generations to be cut off from God and to suffer sin and death. Jesus Christ came as the "last Adam" (I Corinthians 15:45) to give us the opportunity to be spiritually reborn, and rejoined to God.
It is well to remember this, and to use the commemoration of the birth of God's Son as a time of personal rebirth. We can ask God for "debt relief" with the forgiveness of our accumulated sins. We can commit to submitting our lives to Him in order to make the right decisions. We can pray for God's protection on our homes and families and world in the faith that His grace can keep us from harm.
As the liturgical year moves through the cycles of Christ's incarnation, birth, life, death and resurrection, we get even more do-overs appropriate to each season. For the great thing about God's love is that it is always available to us.
Saint Paul paints a stunning picture of the miracle awaiting Christians at the triumphant final moment in human history:
Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
(I Corinthians 15: 51-52; 55)What does this mean? Nothing we have done wrong – no accident, no error, no sin of commission nor omission, can keep us from our ultimate prize – reunion with God.
Now that's what I call the do-over of a lifetime.
Merry Christmas and Happy Do-Over.