This post comes from guest blogger, Pastor Kevin Cornelius. Kevin pastors First Baptist Church of Karnes City, TX which is about 30 miles from Sutherland Springs, where earlier this year the deadliest church shooting on US soil ravaged an entire community.
It’s Christmas Eve, and all I can think of is that I have been involved with so many funerals in the past month. Honestly once I got over 12 I just quit counting. Christmas is a time to rejoice and be happy we’re told. Everyone wants us to be in the Christmas spirit, whatever exactly that is, and to just smile and drink cocoa and sing carols. But honestly I don’t know that ever really fits where we or our hearts are on Christmas. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s how Christmas has always been.
In some way Christmas itself was kind of like a funeral. When Jesus came, He left everything. Holiness, perfection, peace, belonging and love. None of those things were waiting Him here on this earth. What was waiting was a lifetime of suffering. Every day of Jesus life was really a sacrifice if you think about it. I like how Craig Dennison puts it: “Every day of his life was another day given up for our sakes. Every tear, pang of hunger, and wound he suffered throughout his life he experienced not because he had to, but because he chose to out of love for us. Imagine leaving unhindered, face-to-face connection with the Heavenly Father and becoming an infant. Imagine allowing a mother and father to take care of you when you are God himself whose very existence has never known a beginning.”
Christmas wasn’t just a celebration of a birth, it was the beginning of a mission that had one inevitable end, to end on a cross with a dead body that would be laid in a tomb. Christmas was the beginning of what would be a funeral for Jesus. Christmas was a cosmic announcement of birth and death.
Yet what are we told over and over about Christmas in the scriptures? Every time an angel talks about it, we hear the words over and over of celebration. “Fear Not. Good News. A Savior Has Come. Joy To The World.” These are not funeral words. Don’t they know how this will end? Don’t they know about the betrayal, the cross, the death, the tomb….don’t they know this is not how you celebrate a funeral? They do know. And yes this story is about a birth, and a death, and a tomb, and a funeral…but it doesn’t end there, because there is another birth with a promise of even more.
The celebration of Christmas has always been fully aware of the payment that was required. It was always coming with the cross looming over the scene like a figure who casts such a huge shadow it darkens everything in its reach. Christmas was always aware of the cross…but we forget that the cross was always aware of Easter. You see the celebration of Christmas was not for the birth of Jesus, or even His death. Christmas was the celebration of a funeral, but the funeral wasn’t of Jesus. It was the funeral of death itself. Christmas meant that the one who would end death, the one who would conquer sin, the King himself was alive and present, Immanuel God with us now and always. He was born of a virgin in that lowly manger, he would grow up the son a poor carpenter, he would challenge all that the church had to say about what God was really like, he would die to take the punishment of all our sins, he would be buried in a tomb, and three days later he would arise and NOTHING would ever be the same again! No longer would people be slaves to sin, no longer would death be the final word, no longer would we be separated from God. Now we could be forgiven, to live eternally, to know and be known fully be the God who created us by His hand and breath.
This is why the angels celebrated the birth of the baby. Jesus coming in the manger was the signal, the signal that the beginning was near the end, and that the rest was just beginning. That now the days were marked, and were counting down until the day when all who believe are joined together with the Father just as Jesus was and is. The celebration was because this birth signals that all that is broken is in the process of being restored. The rejoicing was because hope had been born and was finally available to this lost and forlorn world.
That’s why I rejoice this morning. Not because I’m happy, or have the Christmas spirit. No, I rejoice because I have hope today. Here’s how Hebrews 11:1 defines hope, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The assurance of things hoped for. Assurance: a promise. Christmas is a promise. A promise that yes things are broken, yes things are hard, yes death seems permanent, yes we can feel hopeless sometimes…BUT. But Jesus has come, and that is not how this ends. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The Savior has come, the Savior is here, the Savior wants you, and He promises us hope…and a future. So Merry Christmas, and may we rest in that hope and promise and rest in our Savior on this special day, for our Savior is born and there is joy in our world!
Pastor • FBC Karnes City, TX