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Dec 24 2014

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How Emmanuel Brings Hope To Christmas Grief

December 24, 2014 | By

On Sunday, while my wife Leeza and I were cleaning up around the house, I passed by our Christmas tree and noticed a new ornament for the first time. Leeza is wonderfully creative and sentimental and had handmade an ornament with Bethany’s name on it. Bethany is the daughter God blessed us with for 9 months in the womb and 30 brief minutes outside the womb (you can read more about our journey with Bethany at jerelandleeza.com). This might sound bad, but I don’t generally think about Bethany that often these days. However, when I saw this ornament on Sunday I was stopped in my tracks and just stood there flooded with emotion. I felt robbed of being able to spend this or any other Christmas with her. She should have been here spending Christmas with her parents and sister (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, church family, etc). I started to think of all the experiences we’re missing out on with her, from decorating the tree to baking cookies and everything in between. Like others who have lost loved ones, I realized how much Christmas can accentuate our grief.

But just then, I was reminded of Jesus as our Emmanuel (God with us). My ears and mind were made aware of the song playing on internet radio at the time. Specifically this verse:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I was also reminded of Stan’s words the night before when he taught the church body from Matt 1 about Jesus as our Emmanuel. He said that just like Joseph, we can have hope in the midst of conflict because Jesus is Emmanuel, in other words, because God is with us. I began to sense in a real way that God is indeed with me, all because our Emmanuel has come. I agreed with the hymn-writer that these gloomy clouds of night and the dark shadows of death would one day be no more because Jesus came to destroy death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Why does the death of loved ones hurt? Why does it sting so badly, particularly during Christmas? Scripture tells us that the sting of death is sin (1 Corinthians 15:56). But dealing with our sin is the very reason that Jesus our Emmanuel came. Though sinless himself He took our sin upon himself, “trampling over death by death.” By His death and resurrection he proved his victory over sin and death. Now because our Emmanuel has come, through faith in Him the sting of death, which is sin, has been conquered.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

So if you’re dealing with grief this Christmas, know that your experience is very much a part of the purpose of Christmas. Jesus our Emmanuel has come to deal with your grief. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was the beginning of God’s plan to destroy death. It made possible the soon coming time when

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

May Jesus our Emmanuel, the Resurrection and Life, bring you hope this Christmas, even in the midst of conflict and grief.