We wish you a merry funeral

No, I did not add too much rum to my fruitcake. And, no, I’ve not been drinking adult-strength eggnog.

When my dad died just after Thanksgiving of 2008, I thought, How tragic that a loved one would die during the Christmas season.

However, the Christmas season is a meaningful time for a funeral. There is something very profound about death during the season of light and life. So, I recently shared this holiday truth at a service for a family friend. I began with these words from the Bible:

      And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

      That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

      Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

      “Glory to God in highest heaven,
      and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:6-14).

To quote Linus, in the classic Christmas cartoon, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The good news is that because Jesus came to earth, anyone who believes in him can go to heaven.

The good news is that because Jesus, came to a world in political and religious turmoil, we can experience joy and peace during this time of grief.

The good news, because of his death, we can experience as he promised “life abundantly” here, and “eternal life” after our death.

I suspect the shepherds could say with the disciple John:

      We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy (1 John 1:1-4).

And Jesus is saying to us today:

      “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am (John 14:1-3).

Unlike the Holy Family, who could find no appropriate lodging Christmas Eve, there is “there is more than enough room” prepared for us.

So, to quote the classic line from the beloved holiday cartoon, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Light in darkness.

Joy in sorrow.

Peace in conflict.

Hope in despair.

Life after death.

If you’re experiencing death and despair at this time of year, remember that Christ came to earth, as the prophet Isaiah describes:

      Wonderful Counselor,
      Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father,
      Prince of Peace.

Copyright © 2018 James N. Watkins

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Christmas at Macy’s (On the life of Christmas)
Dealing with death and grief

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