In the words of the wisest man who ever lived, we read in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” James echoed that same basic sentiment in his book of practical wisdom in the New Testament declaring, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-14)
For me, one of these ‘days’ recently came about. Although I was preparing for it, it was something no one can really be fully ready for. Just three days before this Christmas day, my precious and beloved mother went home to be with the Lord. She had been quite ill for a while, but then experienced a miraculous rebound giving our family the hope that she would be with us for a while longer. So our great hope was short-lived and today her ‘mansion’ in Heaven is her brand new home.
It was on December 22nd that she peacefully breathed her last and was ushered into the presence of the Savior she had known and loved since her early thirties. And it was through her prayers, words and living testimony that her spouse and all three of her children trusted Christ as well. That is any Christian mom’s ultimate success. The Apostle John described that joyous feeling in 3 John 4. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
The death of a loved one is never easy and does seem a little harder when it occurs around a special holiday – especially if it is in the Christmas season. So for us now, each and every Christmas from here on out will come with the memory of what happened this year. To many people, there could not be worse timing for such a thing to occur. In fairness, that is somewhat understandable, all things considered. But for those who personally know the Christ of Christmas, there is an added element that accompanies this unique sorrow – something those outside of God’s family cannot possibly grasp. And that one key difference and ingredient makes all the difference in this world and in the next!
The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well-pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:7-8) And in Philippians 1:23 he expressed the confident God-given knowledge of the superiority of a life with Christ in heaven even versus the best imaginable life here on earth. He stated, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” And the reference there to Heaven being ‘far better’ is likely the understatement of all understatements.
This great truth also prompted Paul to pen the words of inconceivable peace and comfort for all true believers in 1 Corinthians 15. "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
Again, without a doubt it seems more difficult to lose someone dearly loved around this particular holiday. But the deep-seated grief we feel is part of the natural human condition. It was designed and placed into our hearts by our Creator. We were given the blessed capacity to love, and along with that comes the capacity to experience a deep sense of loss and sorrow. Death is the sad and tragic reality of living in a fallen and sinful world. (Romans 8:19-22) But for those in Christ, there is something more – much more! That ‘more’ is the great supernatural sense of victory even in the midst of the deepest human pain. The Bible promises this and many Christians can testify to its reality in the midst of their own life and death experiences.
There is a Christmas song that our church choir has sung for many years that profoundly merges the Savior’s first coming to earth as a baby to His eternal purpose and ministry as a man. It is appropriately entitled, “A Cradle In The Shadow Of A Cross”. The title alone reveals the incomprehensible combining of the God-Man’s unique virgin birth with His future foreordained death to rescue a sin-darkened world of woes. His miraculous incarnation was in order that He would then travel on a sinless road only to end up on a cruel Roman cross. There He would voluntarily sacrifice Himself to provide the forgiveness of sin for any that would trust Him as the Savior for their sins.
In 1 Timothy chapter two, His unique status as mankind’s lone Redeemer is shown in verse 2. It leaves no room for questions or doubts. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. “ Jesus confirmed this same truth in John 14:6 when he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Our family today deeply grieves the death of a very special lady, mother, spouse and friend. It was a life-altering event that took place just a few days before the celebration of the birth of ‘Emmanuel’ - literally meaning God with us! But as Scripture promises, we do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We share the biblical ‘blessed hope’ spoken of in Titus 2:13, part of which is the striking reality and comfort of seeing her again.
I was given a simple but profoundly helpful little poem penned by an unknown author just one day after Mom’s departure. The words themselves were obviously not biblically inspired, but were supremely helpful and inspiring to me, and based on Scriptural truth. It reminded me vividly about where my mom now resides, with whom she now dwells, the indescribable experiences she now enjoys, and about that great reunion when we will all someday soon be together again with her and with our Lord forever!
MY FIRST CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below, With tiny lights like heaven’s stars reflecting on the snow. The sight is so spectacular, but wipe away your tear, For I am spending this Christmas Day with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear, But their sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir here. I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring, As it’s far beyond description to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, by the pain inside your heart. But I am not so far away, we’re not that far apart. So be happy for me, loved ones, you know how I hold you dear, And be glad I’m spending Christmas Day with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift from my heavenly home above, I send you each a memory of my never dying love. When all is done, love is the gift, more precious than pure gold, It was often in the subject in stories Jesus told.
Please love and help each other as my Father said to do, For I cannot even count the blessings all waiting here for you. So have a Merry Christmas, and wipe away your tear, Remember I am spending Christmas Day with Jesus Christ this year.
As our family adjusts to a major loss, we must also keep in mind this monumental gain - one that all who know Christ, serve Him and eagerly look for His coming with equally share. Paul worded it this way when writing to his young son in the faith in 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”