Comfort and Joy

One day, a few years ago, when I was sad, I ran into a stranger, an elderly man. He wasn’t at all afraid to say what needed to be said. His words were wise, and they caught me by surprise, like an early Christmas present.  

The church I was attending met in an elementary school. I had cleaned up after the service and  was heading out of the mostly-empty building when I encountered the wise stranger. The man was with two women. They were all African-American and dressed like they had been to a church service, too.

As I opened the glass door, the man asked if I could point the way to the cafeteria. He said they were planning a memorial service and hoping to host it in there.

His words hit me hard. My stepfather had died a few months before–I was grieving. I knew about memorial services. I knew how they announced to the world that a death had been done. I knew how final they felt. I knew how hard it was to face the fact that you had to plan one.

I looked at him. His eyes were kind. His smile was gentle.

“Did someone close to you pass away?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “My wife.”

My eyes welled with tears. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “My stepfather died a few months ago.”

Then this older man of color looked at me like he was my father or my grandfather or some wise old professor. He looked at me like he knew in his bones that he had something to say, that this something was true, and that he needed me to know that it was true, too.

“But we have hope,” he said. “Because of the resurrection.”

And in between my watery eyes and his unwavering gaze, I felt hope coming over my way. I felt comfort. I felt joy.

“But we have hope, because of the resurrection.” Eight words. Eight words of comfort and joy. 

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.