God’s promise amidst a painful Christmas

This is the final installment in Advent All Around, a Think Christian series that sees reflections of Advent in the culture at large.

Funeral procession after funeral procession wends its way through the streets of Newtown, Conn. Hopes are dashed. Joy turns to mourning. Small caskets lie in state holding bodies of children who should be gathering with families to celebrate Christmas morning. These little ones should be ripping open presents and shouting for joy as they see the contents. They should be eating wonderful food and heading off to church to celebrate the goodness of God.

But they aren’t. It is hard to imagine the unbelievable pain as families torn apart by the murders face the season of delight with numbness, trying hard to just make it through a day.

We want to shout our love to them. We want to tell them it will all be OK, even though we may not believe it ourselves. We want to tell them that Jesus cares and that He weeps with them and loves them with a perfect, everlasting love that cannot be thwarted by sin or even death itself. We want to make things right.

God always keeps His promises. He promised that if we sinned we would die. We did sin, and we do indeed die. Our sin is so great that there are those among us who become capable of walking into a room of small kids and shooting them until they are dead. We believe ourselves to be better, but we murder with our words. We steal and lie and cheat and covet and do all the other things that prove our rebellion against God. It is hard for us to imagine we are evil. We grade on a sliding scale, forgetting that God is holy and will not tolerate any sin.

Today we celebrate Jesus, who comes to seek and to save sinners. He comes to make us right with a righteous God. At funerals for children we can hear lots of bad theology - children becoming angels, children looking down on us, children still walking among us - and it is easy to want to believe these sentiments. The truth is that God made another promise to us. He promised the descendants of Abraham that He would be their God and they would be His people. He repeats His promise through the Old Testament prophets and fulfills it by bringing Jesus to be one of us. In His great act of love and grace He forgives our sins and makes us right with Him because of the sacrifice of His own dearly loved Son. Is the promise true?

We look to the apocalyptic book of Revelation to see the end of the story. In Revelation 21 we read these words: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Jesus, whose birth we celebrate today, is returning. He is making us His own. A day comes when we will no longer mourn or weep or die so tragically. A day when we will fully know the richness of hope, love, joy and peace.

Christ has come and is coming. Live out that reality! Speak of Him. Speak of what He has done, is doing and will do. Tell of His grace and mercy. It is the only way to live in this world.

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There are many who wish to believe that an utterly holy God cannot stand by while innocent but unsaved children go to hell because they did not know Christ. This is not the case. For God could not offer justice to His martyred saints were He to permit even one such child entry to heaven.

You wrote a very powerful piece and it woke a couple of major sin issues in my heart. They’ve been there for some time now, but I’ve ignored them thinking I’d be able to square things with God before I died. The time is tonight to make that start because I may not wake up tomorrow.

Thank you for the reminder as well as for the comforts you offered. You might not think you offered any, but you did.

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