This is dedicated to John Mulligan and Phil Zachary, or Papa and Gampy to their grandchildren. They are two of the greatest grandfathers anyone could ask for, and they died within weeks of each other two years ago this Christmas season. We remember them, and we remember that they live on with their Savior and Friend, and we will see them again one day.
There is a man coming out of the Shadowlands, and all of the heavenly host has fallen silent as they watch him come. He is tired–worn out, in the most literal sense. His hair, once full and brown, is sparse and white. His hands, once smooth and strong, are wrinkled, torn, and shaking. He walks slowly, limping, and pain is in every step.
The silence among the angelic crowd begins to be broken by whispers, because he is not unknown in these parts, this thin, wrinkled old man. “Look at him! Look at this man, so tired and frail. See him walk on, though it pains him every step! See his eyes, fixed unwavering on something he cannot even see! Look at what he has done! He has fought in the great War, and his wounds are the wounds of a warrior. He is so tired, because he has run so hard and gone so far. This is what the King looked like when he was in that far country.”
That is what the angels whisper, watching the man from the Shadowlands.
The man hears none of this. He still walks, but his limp is more pronounced. He stumbles more often, and it takes him longer to get up. Finally there comes a fall from which there could surely be no rising–but he never hits the ground. Another hand, scarred like his own, catches him and pulls him up, and the voice that spoke the world into existence says, “Do not be afraid. Your journey is over.”
The voice that could have shattered the heavens and earth alike is quiet and gentle, and the words, though they have been heard countless times before, still bring a thrill of amazement to the unseen audience. The King has come to welcome his servant home, and as he speaks, the man begins to change. His hands grow strong again, and his legs grow firm. The weariness falls from his frame as he moves with an easiness he has not felt in years. The man who stands before the King is not quite the same as he who fell–he has been renewed.
The man sees the holes in the hands clasping his, and even when he turns his face away he sees the holes in the feet before him. He begins to fall again, not from weakness but from reverence, but again the King bears him up and sets him on his feet. “Brother,” the King says, “Be proud! Be joyful! For you have fought the good fight, even after your hands had lost their strength. You have finished the race, even when every step was agony. And you have kept the faith, even when your body and your very mind failed you, and the world turned dark and confusing. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have surely earned your crown of righteousness.”