Death Turned Upside Down
"Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" —1 Corinthians 15:54-57 You might be wondering, why would I talk about death during the holiday season? We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, a New Year, and enjoying LIFE!
But I’ve learned, as a pastor, that during the Christmas season, death is very present in the minds of families. Either because a loved one died during the holiday season, or we are reminded that a beloved person is no longer with us.
I love this description of death:
“To the region where he goes, the man enters newly born. We forget that it is a birth and call it death. And as the childbed is watched on earth with anxious expectancy, so the couch of the dying, as we call it, may be surrounded by the birth-watchers of the other world, waiting like anxious servants to open the door to which this world is but the windblown porch.” (From “Robert Falconer” by George McDonald, 1868.)
Believers celebrate Christ’s victory over death, proclaiming, “He is risen!” with great joy. But God never asks us to be dishonest. We can admit that death affects us, and even frightens us. God promised to be with us in the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23), because He knows that we will need a loving hand.
When C.S. Lewis mourned the death of his wife, he wrote, “It is hard to have patience with people who say ‘There is no death.’ There is death. And whatever is matters…I look up into the night sky. Is there anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces…I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?”
My brother’s death years ago hurt our family deeply. We still miss him. There is an irreconcilable void in our family gatherings. Death is a thief and robber, and takes from us the very thing God bestowed upon us —life. It is a reality we must face.
People used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, until a man named Copernicus published a controversial book in 1543 asserting that the earth and planets circle around the sun. He changed everyone’s perspective of the universe.
This is what Jesus did. He turned our perception of death upside down!
Jesus made eternal life a reality. Death has been conquered! The robber is robbed. Life was taken back. And the greatest gift, eternal life, was given to humankind!
Even in sorrow we can rejoice and wish the world a Merry Christmas.
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so… One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” —John Donne, poet,1572-1631