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Op-Ed: The Unimaginable Becomes Real at Christmas

Presbyterian minister from Novato — who has a wife with cancer — shares perspective on this holy day.

By Rev. Daniel Christian

I like Christmas. It is one of my most favorite times of the year. I like all the sentimentality and familiarity that is associated with the season. But all too often we are taken over by singing chipmunks, dancing snowmen and frenzied shopping, and this leaves us asking or crying for a more meaningful and lasting Christmas experience. Like Charlie Brown, we all desire Christmas to have greater transformational meaning in our life. We long for more than expanded waistlines and January credit card bills.

Christmas as a spiritual experience is about opening our lives to the unimaginable becoming real. Ponder this for a moment: A baby being born to a 14-year-old virgin doesn’t add up, knowing everything we understand about human biology. The Christmas story is by no means a biology lecture. Quite the contrary. Having faith in a deeper meaning of Christmas asks that we have an audacious belief that a God can bring new life or a new way of being when all the logic and evidence says otherwise.

My wife and I live this reality daily. Seven out of the eight years of our marriage, Laura has battled breast cancer. Advancements in chemotherapies, radiation and target therapy keeps her alive and thriving. We live every day of our life on the edge of modern medicine hoping and praying for the unimaginable to become real. Audaciously believing that the unimaginable can become real is a daily ritual for all who walk the road of cancer. With each devastating diagnosis that knocks us down and sends our minds spinning and our hearts sinking, we are lifted back up with unbelievable news that the tumors are gone. Time and time again we are lifted back to our feet because doctors have no scientific explanation as to why she responds so well to treatments. 

We stopped asking “Why me?” a long time ago. Because the answer from the best minds in cancer research remains the same, “We don’t know.” When we ask, “Why does she get great results that other women do not get?,” the answer is the same: “We don’t know, at least not yet.”

Laura’s recent scan before Thanksgiving revealed that in just eight weeks her disease has “almost completely gone away.”  As the woman who heads UCSF’s clinical trials said, “ I’ve never seen this kind of response in any of my patients.”  It makes her cry … us, too. The unimaginable has become our reality.

So I know a little about what it is like to receive some unimaginable news, news that doesn’t make sense, news that defies explanation from modern science.

Our life is spent living on the edge of medical mystery in the 21st century.  I have no problem reading scripture that turns human understanding upside down. In fact, I am restored by it. God can bring new life in ways that takes all that we know to be true and turns it topsy-turvy. This isn’t just Good News! It is Great News!  Christmas is the audacious belief in a God that creates a path, when all logic and evidence indicates there is no path.  

Daniel Christian of Novato is pastor at St. Luke Presbyterian Church, 10 Bayview Drive, San Rafael.

Brent Ainsworth December 25, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Such nice comments. Thanks, Rev. Dan, for this beautiful offering.
Kathleen December 25, 2011 at 07:15 PM
What a wonderful sharing on this holy day. May God bless you and your wife and may she continue to astound her doctors.
Marian Caldwell December 26, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Pastor Dan, I share all of your sentiments about the Christmas season and thank you for such an uplifting story about your wife. I have a similar breast cancer diagnosis, although not for so long, and have had similar results through several treatments. Her success over a long period of time gives me a lot to hope for. You remind me to remember that I can have faith in something that cannot necessarily be explained. Brent- Thank you for publishing a perfect story for Christmas. --M. Caldwell
Heather Ophir December 27, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Well said, Dan. Laura is a miracle in so many ways. Her repeated triumph over cancer only one of many. Love and good health to all three of you in the new year!
Daniel Christian December 27, 2011 at 06:08 AM
Thank you all for your kind and generous thoughts. Peace, Rev.Dan

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