Monday, December 23, 2013

Incarnation and Resurrection

            Yesterday’s praise and prayer time at church was heavy on the prayer side. So many needs were expressed as the microphone traveled through the congregation. Cancer. Nursing home admission. An inoperable tumor in a five year old. Shingles. An infant with lung complications.
            People struggling with Christmas because they’re missing someone who’s passed away.
            I felt heavier and heavier as these concerns were voiced, and the very un-seasonal thought came to me:  Life is terminal. The death rate is 100%. Nobody gets out of here alive.
            Then in his sermon, the pastor reminded us of the collateral damage at the first Christmas. In his attempt to kill Jesus, Herod ordered the slaughter of Bethlehem’s sons two years old and younger. With a population of around 1000, it’s estimated that 200 boys were murdered.
            All the candy canes and twinkle lights at Wal-Mart can not compensate for the sorrow felt around the globe and in our own churches and communities.
            Even the Incarnation, the coming of God the Son in the flesh at Bethlehem, doesn’t outweigh the trouble. We need the Resurrection and Ascension to tip the scales.
            The first chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke need the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, because, as Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (17 – 19).
            If Christ has not been raised, then the holiday might just as well be about snowmen and trees and Santa Claus and excess.
            Thank God, Paul goes on to insist, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (20 – 23).
            Thank God, the Resurrection reminds me life isn’t terminal after all. The Resurrection doesn’t just tip the scales; it demolishes the scales. Because of the Resurrection, I can celebrate December’s coming holy day with all its secular and sacred trimmings, in spite of the world’s troubles and my own (hopefully) temporary frailty.
            Merry Christmas and Happy Resurrection.

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