Today, as a ferocious winter storm pounds the north, summer is dawning in the southern hemisphere. Right now, while it is dark over the west, the sun is rising in the east. At this moment, a house is mourning as a loved one takes a final breath, while next door a house is celebrating as a newborn baby is welcomed into the world. It is by design that there is both cold and hot, dark and light, death and life.
Farmers know that their lands need rest after a productive growing season, and they need to rest and prepare for the next season as well. All of us know that we need good sleep at night following a day of work (or even a day of play). We all know that, though we lay our heads down on the pillow and go to sleep at night, the sun will rise again and mark the start of the next day. We also all know that when summer fades into fall, ultimately giving way to winter, spring will come along heralding the arrival of another summer. Days and seasons continue in a cycle, seemingly certain to go on forever. Yet when life gives way to death, it is unclear to many what, if anything, comes next.
When we know what comes next, we move forward with purpose. We use the dark of winter to prepare for the upcoming summer, because we know what comes next. We use the dark of night to rest our bodies, because we know what comes with the start of the next day. But when it comes to living our lives with purpose and meaning, so many struggle because they don’t know what comes next. Not knowing what comes next after our deaths makes it very difficult to know if we are living our lives correctly, and it causes us to grieve deeply upon the death of a loved one.
Herein lies part of the wonder of the Christmas gift, the birth of the Christ child some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Jesus let us know what comes next, and in so doing, He let us know how to live our lives with purpose and meaning so that our deaths would merely be a moment of transition to life again. Love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. For the one who will do that in this life, the darkness of death will give way to the brilliance of light and life in the eternal presence of our Creator.
It is because “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given” and because “a Savior has been born to you” that we can live our lives with joyful purpose, because we know what comes next just as surely as winter yields to summer and night gives way to the day. With that knowledge, there is no more need for uncertainty, no more need for mourning, no more need for tears. What a wonderful gift indeed!
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron