For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Philippians 1:21-23
The woman who was hospitalized with cancer was not alone.
Her husband had been by her side throughout her illness, and now the children had been summoned to her sickbed. They had been called to be there for a time of celebration or mourning. The next day she was going to undergo a new treatment. The doctors had been honest with the family. It was the kind of treatment which can cure or it can kill. If it cured, mother would be given an unknown amount of time. If it killed, well, that would mean she would be home with her Savior.
It was with that knowledge and in that spirit the family had come together the day before the surgery. Quite frankly, everyone was a bit worried. With so many things being indefinite, they were glad there was one thing upon which they could all agree: mom could ask for anything she wanted and, if it was within their power, they would give it to her.
Well, mother did have a request. She asked that they sing a hymn of two. Oh, her request was a bit more specific than that. She knew exactly which hymns she wanted them to sing. She wanted them to sing Christmas hymns.
May I tell you that they sang with gusto. No, there was none of that "Let's be quiet so we don't offend anyone." Nope, they sang like they meant it. Those at the nurse's station who were there that day heard,
"Now sing we, now rejoice, Now raise to heaven our voice; He from whom joy streameth, Poor in a manger lies"
The hymn goes on,
"Cheer my wearied spirit, O pure and Holy Child; through Thy grace and merit, Blest Jesus, Lord most mild."
Many folks would say Christmas-hymn singing is a strange request when it comes from an individual who is about to take a treatment which can cure or kill. Actually, they might say that if they don't know Jesus and the way He changes and comforts those who believe on Him as Savior. But if you really know and really believe on Him as your Redeemer, you can readily understand how a family might sing,
"Now through His Son doth shine the Father's grace divine. Death o'er us had reigned through sin and vanity; He for us obtained eternal joy on high. May we praise Him there! May we praise Him there!"
Three days after the family had sung, Mom went home ... and fulfilled the words of the hymn. Now, with many millions of other believers, the hymn's request has come true, and she is able to praise Him there.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, our sinful human condition says that -- unless our Savior returns soon in judgment -- we will be leaving this world through death. When that day comes, I give thanks I will be amongst those who will continue to sing the Redeemer's praises. By the Holy Spirit's power, I pray that today's lost may also be brought to faith, so they can join in that heavenly anthem. In the Savior's Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries