Devotion for the Week...
Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. For about nine Christmases now, we've been using an advent wreath, lighting the candles each Sunday evening at supper and reflecting on what Christmas really means. This year I'm going to carry that tradition over to my devotions here. Over the next few weeks we'll look at peace, joy and love, but today we begin with hope.
As we've been getting closer to the Christmas season, I've been thinking a lot about people who are mourning this year, especially those for whom this will be the first Christmas without a loved one. I was thinking in particular of the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the soldier who was killed while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa last month. Then my thoughts were brought closer to home when a friend's mom passed away a couple of days ago.
I remember, when I was a kid, my Dad once said that for some people Christmas is the hardest time of the year. At the time it made no sense to me because Christmas was all about the joy, the presents and the lights. Now that I'm older, though, I understand that being lonely or sad can be magnified when you are constantly being bombarded with the message that you're supposed to be happy. Christmas, with its joyous carols and the emphasis on family togetherness, can be incredibly hard for some.
But the little baby that we celebrate at Christmas came to give us hope even in the hard times. We celebrate His arrival as a baby in a manger because it was the beginning, the start of God's plan to restore humanity to a right relationship with Him. But Jesus didn't stay a baby. He grew up, He healed the sick, He taught His disciples and then He died. If that were the end of the story, it wouldn't have been all that different from the lives of many others, but thankfully that's not the end of the story.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Jesus died for us, but he didn't stay dead! There is the root of our hope.
In another letter, Paul wrote, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
As believers we have the hope that one day we will see our loved ones again. That all of those who have ever loved Jesus will one day be together again, and that we "will be with the Lord forever."
That doesn't mean we don't grieve, of course. We still miss those we have lost. We are still sad that they are gone, but even in our darkest hours, we can hold to the hope that one day things will be different. One day we will be in a place where God "will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). That is one of the gifts Jesus brought to us when He came as a baby in a manger.
Because of Christmas we have hope.