Death and Christmas

As humans, we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? We have our special spots in the car and at the dinner table. We have our certain pew at  church.

But when a loved one dies, those spots become empty. Your friend’s chair is unused. Mom’s house stays undecorated. Grandma’s signature dish is missing. The arms that should have held a baby remain empty. Her side of the bed is cold. Those empty spaces haunt us, re-opening wounds of grief and pain.

Christmas can be especially distressing. Christmas is about “good news of great joy,” right? There’s no room for grief or pain, is there?

But as God had His angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, death and sacrifice were also on His mind.

Why else would God insist that Jesus be born in Bethlehem? God inspired Micah’s prophesy. God moved the mind of Caesar Augustus, Roman emperor, to demand a census. God sent a carpenter and his very pregnant wife walking to Bethlehem. Why? Because Bethlehem was the village that birthed the lambs for the temple sacrifices.

The shepherds would have understood the announcement perfectly. They knew that the spotless, male lambs were swaddled to preserve them from injury and placed in a manger to await sacrifice.

So yes, Christmas is good news and great joy: a Savior!

But that salvation has a cost: death and sacrifice.

Dear grieving brother or sister in Christ, your grief need not diminish your Christmas. You need not try to set your grief aside or hide it. Outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus consecrated tears of grief. Let them flow.

But also, be comforted. God knows your pain. He knows what it’s like to have the host of heavenly angels singing praise while a part of His heart suffers.

Don’t be ashamed or bothered if your life has empty spaces. Empty spaces in your heart are part of living in a broken, sin-filled world.

Take heart. God has won. He will shut death’s doors one day.

‘Til He does, don’t let grief darken your Christmas. Let grief deepen it. Have a deeper appreciation for the necessity of Jesus’s incarnation. Have a deeper understanding of God’s sacrifice. Have a deeper love for our Savior.

Have a meaningful Christmas.

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