I decided to write this article early in September, as I was inspired by two events that took place on Sept. 10 and 11.
On Sept. 10, I had the distinct honour and privilege of presiding at the celebration of the life and Christian witness of the Rev. Canon William “Bill” Riesberry in the parish of St. John, East Orangeville. It was a well-attended celebration befitting Bill, who always wore a smile on his face and was gracious to everyone he met. Many remarked that the liturgy was a wonderful thanksgiving for a good, long and faithful life of a husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend and priest.
Bill’s daughter Jennifer gave a moving tribute about her father, whom she described as a person who loved life, cherished his family and cared for people. She spoke of how much he loved to laugh and be funny, and of the compassion and concern he had for persons on the margins of society.
God loaned Bill to us for 89 years, and what wonderful memories he has left us. We give thanks to God for a good and faithful priest, for the servant ministry he carried out and the many lives he touched.
On Sept. 11, I watched some of the events marking the 14th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11. We were reminded that 14 years ago, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters and grandparents left their loved ones at home that day, never to return to them. No one in America or around the world could have imagined how that day would have changed the lives of all of us, in one way or another. Many of those who died had no opportunity to say goodbye for the last time to their loved ones. The tragedy of that day was a stark reminder to all of us that as great and wonderful as life can be, it is equally as frail and at times very uncertain. It is not difficult to believe or imagine that many who lost beloved family and friends would have liked to have told them how much they loved them and appreciated the things they did and shared.
As we prepare for and celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, the one who came that we might have life in all its fullness – God’s gift of his only Son for our salvation – may we pause and give thanks to Almighty God for those with whom we share our lives. Let us not take for granted those with whom we share our lives. God has made us to be in relationship. He chose to come among us, our Emmanuel, and share in our humanity. Christ dwells among us to share in our joys and sorrows, our ups and downs, and that we may know that we are loved by God. Bill’s life was celebrated by family, friends, former parishioners and the church, as he exemplified the importance of love for family and care for others. Those who lost family and friends on 9/11 would probably have given anything to have said one more goodbye.
Every day is a God-given opportunity to tell loved ones, friends, co-workers and the many with whom we share our lives, that they are loved, appreciated and valued by us. Let us not regret missing the chance to share with those whom God has placed in our lives, our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all they have shared and all that they mean to us.
My hope this Christmas season is that we would be more intentional in expressing thanks to Almighty God for life and the gift of salvation in his Son Jesus Christ. I also hope that we would show and express gratitude to those whom we can so easily take for granted – family, friend, co-worker and neighbour.
While tributes to loved ones and friends at retirement functions and funerals are fitting and appropriate, let us not lose the opportunity to tell them while they are with us how much they are loved and cherished.
In this is season of love, peace and goodwill, and as we gather to celebrate the birth of Christ in our churches and at meals with family, friends and others, may we be reminded that we are called to love God and neighbour, as we love ourselves.
A blessed and happy Christmas to you and all with whom you share your lives.