Friday, December 25, 2015

Remembering Uncle Mike Russel

Uncle Mike Holding Xander!
Uncle Mike served his family as a father, uncle, great uncle, husband, and grandfather.  He made his living as an electrician, and was a big Nebraska Fan!   He loved his Lord, family, and college football.  When I came into Becki's family about 11 or 12 years ago, we were the only two real college football fans.  You see St. Louis is a baseball town, Go Cards!  We would always watch the college football bowls together, and have a good time.  I remember him being at all the holiday family gatherings with the same warm smile you see in this photo, and getting down on the ground to play with all the little kids.  He loved his great nieces and nephews.

Back in November, he began to have memory problems and headaches.  On December 1, Uncle Mike was diagnosed with CJD a very rare brain disease.  I had never heard of it in my yeas as a pastor.  It took him and our family to a hard dark place.  On December 15, the Lord called him home.  His last prayer was the Lord's prayer.  He told us that the whole thing that he was being reminded that Jesus loves him.  We thought that it would take months, but it only took weeks.

We buried Uncle Mike a week ago today.  In moments like this it always appears that darkness is winning, but as the old Appalachian songs says, "The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn!" I do not think it is an accident that the shepherds received the news of Christ's birth in the darkness of night.  It was a dark night spiritually, the nation of Israel's religious leaders had turned their faith into legalism and the priests served as little more than politicians bending rules to their benefit.  The world sat in darkness, but Jesus is the bright and morning star!  We are reminded in the last book of the Bible that the light always trumps over the darkness!  Revelation says,

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you the testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.  -Revelation 22:16

Our Morning Star will rise in the midst of our most unfamiliar and dark places.  What is your darkness?  Is it a sadness?  A loss? Sickness? Failing Health?  Living with the effects of your sins or others' sins?  Let the light of Christmas shine in your dark moments.  Uncle Mike does not rest in darkness this Christmas, he is bathing in the Light of our bright Morning Star!  The old poem instructs us, "Rage against the dying of the light!"  Let us rage at our sin, and it's effects.  Let us rage at all things that seem to dim the true light of Jesus Christ in all of us.  Let us rage at the darkness in mandkind's souls, and let us proclaim that a child is born who has ended the darkness for all who will follow Him!  Christmas is a holiday of lights, because as the angel told the shepherds,

"10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”  -Luke 2:10-12

The light has come on Christmas Day.  Every Christmas light I see lit up is a reminder of the light of our Morning Star which has conquered the darkness!  Glory be to God!

Merry Christmas Uncle Mike, until we meet at Jesus feet!

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