Summary: A funeral sermon for an 81 year old woman who had been in declining health for several years, yet never wavered in her faith. Her funeral was held 1 week before Christmas.
(Reading of the obituary)
Dear family members and friends of Freda,
May God’s grace, mercy, and especially on this day, peace be with you all from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
On behalf of all of us here at Our Saviour’s, I wish to extend to you our deepest sympathies at the death of Freda. While the death of a loved one is always a difficult thing to endure at any time of the year under any circumstance, when it happens this close to Christmas, it always seems to add a little extra sting to it. Sometimes, we find ourselves asking questions like “Why couldn’t Freda have hung on long enough to enjoy one last Christmas with us?” I’ll be the first to tell you, those questions are not easy to answer. When I was a senior in high school 13 years ago, I was supposed to go to a Christmas party with a friend of mine over in Clear Lake. Our plans originally were that he was going to pick me up, and we’d go over together. For some reason, at the last minute, my plans had to change, so I was going to meet up with him at the party. As I was driving the 13 miles from Garner to Clear Lake, the main highway was blocked off for an accident. The fog that night was so thick, you could hardly see the front of your car, let alone anything else. When I did get to the party, my friend was nowhere to be found. So, I decided to just go on home. When I awoke the next morning for school, the radio had said a Garner teenager had been killed in a car accident on Highway 18 between Garner and Clear Lake the night before. It was my friend, he had crossed the center line and hit a van head on, killing him instantly. A week before Christmas, I found myself serving as a pall bearer for his funeral, asking the very question I posed earlier, “Why did this have to happen so close to Christmas?”
The text our Pastor preached on that day was our Gospel lesson we have before us today, from John 14. It’s a Gospel reading that’s used quite frequently at Christian funerals, such as we have for Freda today. And it’s one that will help us find some comfort, hope, and strength in the days and weeks ahead. So let’s take a look at it in our time together today.
We hear a lot this time of the year about peace, hope, happiness, and joy. To the world, the Advent and Christmas season are supposed to be a time of great joy, and peace. You’ve been hearing a LOT about finding the perfect gift for the important people in your lives, how you’re supposed to be filled with happiness, comfort, and joy! Yet, here we are in this sanctuary this morning, grieving because Freda is not with us any longer. Just because Christmas is next week, that doesn’t change the fact that Freda is in this casket, that she suffered from a lot of physical ailments over the last few years, robbing her of the ability to stay in her own home and as time passed, to do a lot of the things she loved to do. For you, her family and friends, it was equally as difficult for you to see your beloved aunt and friend to suffer from heart problems and other ailments. It would seem, on the surface at least, that for us here today, it would be next to impossible to experience comfort, peace, and joy. Perhaps you feel like Christmas just won’t be Christmas. But, through His Word, Jesus has a message for us, a message I know that Freda would want to have me share with you, a message that although it doesn’t seem to fit with the Christmas season according to the world, it does tell us what Christmas is all about.
As John 14 begins, we find Jesus and His disciples in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper, a scene that Freda had crocheted at one time, has already taken place, Judas has left the room, and the countdown to Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, and death is on. Within 24 hours, Jesus will be arrested, beaten, tried, convicted, and crucified. In the verses that immediately precede our text, Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny knowing Jesus, something Peter adamantly claims will never happen. This doesn’t sound like a peaceful scene, does it? Yet, Jesus says to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” I often find myself wondering what the disciples were thinking at this point as they hear Jesus say these words, and what they thought of them as the events of the next several hours would unfold. “Let not our hearts be troubled? Jesus, what are you talking about? You’re being falsely accused of things, you’re being beaten, mocked, and they’re going to kill you! Not only that, but if they are doing that to you, will we be next? How can you say “Let not your hearts be troubled?” In the midst of what we’re told we’re supposed to be feeling this Christmas season, maybe you find yourself asking the same question. “Jesus, Freda has died, she suffered a lot, she didn’t deserve to have all those years of declining health. How can you tell us to not have a troubled heart?” It would have been very easy, and perhaps even understandable, for Freda to have been depressed about her situation, to not have hope in the midst of her suffering and ill health. To be honest, when I went to visit her in the hospital the Sunday afternoon before she died, I half expected her to be, understandably, depressed.