I returned yesterday from a short trip to Wichita, Kansas. Our cousin, Bonnie, passed away this past week. We joined her husband, Paul, and children John, Mona, and Sid, to celebrate her extraordinary life. She touched the lives of many people, and some of them were able to come and share that with her family. It was a rich experience.
During this season we Christians celebrate the Incarnation, and it is a wonderful time to see young children singing and participating in Christmas programs. We often think of the beginning of life as being full of hope, and the baby Jesus symbolizes that for us. Yet hope is found in a real sense at the end of life as well. Though we feel sorrow at the loss of our loved ones, our faith in a loving and merciful God gives us much comfort that this life, which is often marvelous yet sometimes full of struggle and pain, is not all there is. That was an important thing for all of us to remember. Thank you, Kansas cousins, for allowing us to share that hope with you. It made the Christmas message more real.
For those who have not been to Wichita, it is a wonderful city. The drive across the flinthills of Kansas is inspiring in its own way – the vast open spaces of the Great Plains have a peaceful and awe-inducing character that can speak to your soul. Seas of brown grass extend as far as you can see, and I am sure they are even more beautiful in the verdant spring. There is a stretch on the Kansas turnpike where thirty-four miles elapse between exits. That is a good bit of country to cover. Though there was no snow, there was some beautiful white frost that remained in the valleys and on the trees for a portion of the morning hours. That was pretty close to a white Christmas, and quite close enough to suit me.
One can only imagine the experience of the first settlers crossing this country on the Santa Fe trail. And don’t you wish they could see the modern city that has grown out of the prairie, with airplane factories and all that goes with them? Most of this industry was created from the minds of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those settlers. To them, the world was not a fixed-sized pie, but an infinite cookie sheet in an infinite oven, with production bounded only by their dreams. That world-view needs to be rekindled often, lest we begin to think of wealth as something to divide and redistribute, instead of a commodity that can be created, built, and adapted through a diligent and optimistic approach that is open to new possibilities.
I hope each of you have a blessed holiday season. In particular, I hope you are able to enjoy the day together with your family. Though we all like presents, time is really a more important gift. So, Merry Christmas -- and a Happy Hanukkah to all my friends who celebrate this holiday! May we all rekindle hope and treasure life in this season.