Christmas is for Funerals

By Joel A. Hess

The house was decorated for Christmas. Santa Claus figurines, branches of evergreen, and ceramic angels were sitting on every table, shelf, and mantel. The mighty Christmas tree stood in the corner with bright greens, yellows, reds, blues, and purples lighting up the warm house while the snow fell outside.

Yet amidst the joyous sights of a December evening in northern Michigan, a man lay on a hospital bed with his family surrounding him. In the peaceful Advent evening, the ghostly sound of a man’s last breaths interrupted all our holiday preparations. Christmas would now forever be tainted by this day, this death, for this family who held tightly to their dear father whispering goodbyes in his ear.

It all seemed out of place—the cheerful ornaments and the gray, wrinkled hand of the old man, the cinnamon candle burning on the desk and the smell of medicine and hospitals.

They didn’t belong together.

Once again, another Christmas was ruined by death, forever staining the memories of these people, forever dimming their Christmases.

On top of the tree I saw a white fragile angel blowing a trumpet.

Then—and especially then—I heard what the angel said to us all.

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Death hasn’t interrupted Christmas. O no! Christmas has forever interrupted death!

Just as the Savior interrupted the cycle of sin and death when He was born, so He interrupted death on that day. What an odd sight indeed! God and sin, Divinity and dying. God, mingling His life with ours, even bleeding on the cross and laying in a grave with us for us.

What better time for this forgiven child of God to die than Christmas time? Now whenever they remember his death, they will remember Christmas. They will remember the coming of God into our world, the birth of a Savior who came not to be adored by healthy, sinless, happy people, but to save the dying, helpless, broken, sinful humanity.

Christmas literally robbed death of its power over this man’s family, even this man! Every Christmas they are reminded of their father’s salvation. So do we!

Christ’s birth gives us reason to have joy and peace even at the grave. Christ has taken away our shame and returned our immortality. Because of Christmas, this dying man’s family looks forward to a joyful reunion, an everlasting Christmas feast. Come, Christmas Savior! If you think your parties at Christmas this year are awesome, just wait for that ultimate Christmas party at the resurrection!

If Christmas belongs anywhere, it belongs wherever death is knocking or sin is creeping. If Christmas is for anyone, it is for the lonely, the dying, the helpless, the guilty and ashamed, the lost and forgotten. Christmas is ONLY for them.

To them the angel announces: Do not fear.

3 thoughts on “Christmas is for Funerals

  1. In the words you wrote lies the message of Christmas….” the Savior interrupted the cycle of sin and death.” How deep and true in all respects. As I took my morning walk in the bitter cold today, there was a blue sky creeping out of the cloudy veneer above, and the rustling trees carried by the wind seemed to reveal the same theme, that the cycle of life and death is in the seasons, and reflected in Christmas as well. What better time than now to reflect on Christ and His coming to earth to save us from our sins, to free us from spiritual death. Let the naysayers among our Christian brethren complain about the commercial ruminations of the season. Regardless, what a better time than now to speak to the world about Jesus, to tell them about the funeral Joel describes as the one held for sin?

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  2. Thank you Pastor Hess for remembering this time last year with my Dad. He had a lot of faith and told us the Lord was taking his hand. We rejoice in the fact he is with the Lord and we will all be reunited one day! You stated at his memorial, Doug doesn’t have to believe anymore, he’s living it!! Merry Christmas to you and your family. God bless you!

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