O Death, where is your victory or grave where is your sting? 1Cor. 15:55
Death is inevitable – a separation or loss that calls naturally for grieving. At Corinth “spiritualists” falsely taught that the believer’s bodily resurrection had already taken place. Paul corrects this heresy to show death is not a dead-end but a doorway. We will be resurrected because Christ is risen. Death’s sting is sin, since Christ came to save us from sin, now death is defeated. That first Christmas, with the mothers of Bethlehem, Mary had to deal with dying. Believers grieve but not without help and hope since we have an eternal home!
1. Finding Immanuel – God is with us always and He’s faithful
Believers often have to come to terms with loved ones dying. At times we have near death experiences. Passing through the valley of the shadow of death can be fearful (Psa. 23:4). Yet its precisely here that God has promised to be with us to comfort us. An angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Mary was fearful yet was assured that the Lord was with her and that she found favor, God’s sufficient grace. Mary brought forth what God sent forth – Jesus, meaning Savior!
2. Facing Death with an unshakable faith
Experiencing death or living with those who are dying can be disorienting and challenging to our faith in God. Here we must learn to trust in God’s sovereignty. God is too good to be unkind to us; He’s too wise to make mistakes in our lives! Mary did not know how the virgin birth is going to happen yet demonstrated her faith in God in surrendering to His will. Further she magnified the Lord in joyful song (Lk. 1:46).
3. Feeling the Loss and dealing with the pain
When we encounter death there can be two extreme reactions. Either we deny death’s reality and not grieve well, or we are shattered and lose all hope. The grieving process moves from denial through anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance! Did Mary know of all that would happen to Jesus? How He will be despised, rejected… crucified?! Simeon foretold of a sword that will pierce Mary’s pure heart which she pondered over all her life.
4. Fulfilling God’s purpose with fellow believers
God comforts all who mourn, but does not expect us to mourn alone. Mother Teresa of India aptly said, “The world’s worst disease is loneliness with despair!” Immanuel calls us to share in the joys and the sorrows of other believers. Mary visited Elizabeth who was also expecting a miracle child. Here, she was encouraged in her faith, renewed in hope and together they discover the joy of the Lord to be their strength, and salvation!
This Christmas let us be sensitive and attentive to lonely people near us who are hurting because of the death of a loved one or some loss. Remember Jesus was born to die that we may live and He came to earth new life to give. Let us therefore be strong, unshakable in faith and thank God for His indescribable gift!