And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:14,16-17
Ah, the dreaded “Christmas Letter.” What will be the approach? Simple news style? Schmaltz? Devotional slant? Bragfest? Narrative? Make-believe? Bore them to death with numbing detail? I’ve seen them all this year, and each has its master-practitioner.
Instead – and posting via my blog makes this possible – I’m going to do offer a brief summary annotated by some great photographs (There won’t be room for all the images in the body of this letter, so please scroll through the slides at the bottom and see the captions for more information).
But first I want to set the stage by describing the particular filter through which I want to pour everything you read and see, and that is this phrase from the first chapter of John’s Gospel: From [God’s] fullness we have received grace upon grace. Rebekah and I live out of the context of fullness – we “live like we mean it” – and life has continued to be an initiative bound up in grace.
Yes, this is a broken and troubled world. But we choose to engage this life as God’s children, forgiven, free, and defined by promise!
Four years in and we’re still excited to be here in North Carolina. Wake Forest is a beautiful location and this community is a great place to live. Our neighborhood is quiet and it’s less than a mile walk – all sidewalks – to my favorite downtown coffee-bar.
The reason we’re here is Rebekah’s call as senior pastor at WFPC. I write about our church a lot, so today I’ll simply say that this is a vibrant, complex, deeply faithful, extravagantly talented, growing faith community. There is so much going on around here that it’s impossible to keep up. Wake Forest Presbyterian Church is living proof that God is alive and active and continuing to transform lives in every way.
Rebekah and Derek:
In consequence of the above, Rebekah and Derek continue to be encouraged, motivated, engaged, fulfilled, and exhausted. It is not lost on us that we are both now 61 – yet we have never been more productive. To be honest, thinking about what God has in store over the next few years leaves us both excited and a little nervous. Yet we know that God is more than sufficient, and we understand that, “all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Rebekah continues to be the most imaginative, passionate, and effective preacher-communicator I know. She inspires me every time she climbs into the pulpit.
It is such an amazing blessing to have Naomi, Craig, David, and Beks just two and a half hours away in Richmond. David (six) started kindergarten this year and he is soaring. Beks enrolled in pre-school and has grown into the most beautiful four-year-old. The family are committed members of their local Presbyterian Church, Naomi excels at motherhood, fitness, and creativity, and Craig continues to shine on the management team at Trader Joe’s.
Over in Tashkent, Andrew and Alicia are wrapping up their third year in Uzbekistan. They will be moving next summer, and say that they’re looking forward to new adventures. As special and talented as they are, you know it’s going to be something wonderful. Meanwhile, Andrew has completed his work at Penn State, and is now the proud owner of a masters degree in Public Administration.
In July, we managed to be with both children for the family reunion in North Georgia. I can’t remember when I last got to celebrate a Fathers’ Day with Andrew and Naomi on hand! Probably the best gift in a very long time!
It’s such a privilege to have my mum and dad next door. David and Grace are a cumulative 175, and – while negotiating all the challenges of advanced years – they both remain positive, engaged, and faithful. Mum – who has a large group of extremely helpful friends – is able to participate in worship, Bible study, and fellowship. For dad, moving around is not so easy, so that makes living next door even more of a blessing.
One highlight of the year was the Bermuda cruise we enjoyed together for their 65th wedding anniversary. My mum and dad remain a living testimony to the profound beauty of a life lived in faithfulness and committed love.
I love being a writer. I enjoy the creative process of communicating deep truths to people via words. Sometimes I think my work is more that of thinker than writer. It is an amazing privilege to share with others: books, blogging, articles, and columns, as well as traveling to speak. It’s all better than good.
In 2017 I broke new ground with my first work of historical fiction. “Suddenly the Light Was Gone” is a WW2 novel. I am very pleased with the result as well as looking forward to what’s next. I’d be honored if all of you would read the book, share it with friends and family, and let me know what you think.
Each year is packed full with grace, and adventure, and love, and promise, and family, and opportunity, and celebration, and challenge – as well as grief, pain, disappointment, difficulty, and more… Yet in everything, God walks with us, surrounds us with love, and adds the perspective of hope and purpose and mission.
It is our prayer that you – each individual one of you – set course into 2018 with a firm commitment to allow that sense of love and purpose to cover you, to guide you, and to fill your life with goodness and with promise.
Because it is always true that, “from [God’s] fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
In love, and because of love – DEREK
(here are 60 photos pretty much summing up 2017. Peruse if you wish, I’ll caption the ones that aren’t obvious!)