2179) Christmas, Life and Death

By Rev. John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, at:  http://www.dgm.org

     As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that Marion Newstrum had just died.  Marion and her husband Elmer have been part of Bethlehem longer than most of our members have been alive.  She was 87.  They had been married 64 years.

     When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be strong in the Lord and not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.”  I pray that all Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true friend.”

     Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death.  She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel.  It was December 16, 1974.  Those events are incredibly real to me even today.  If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears — for example, thinking that my sons never knew her.  We buried her the day after Christmas. 

     Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before.  Don’t block it out.  Let it come.  Feel it.  What is love for, if not to intensify our affections — both in life and death?  But, O, do not be bitter.  It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.

     Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life.  “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years.  Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the Lord.”

     Do you feel restless for home?  I have family coming home for the holidays.  It feels good.  I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming.  All other homecomings are foretastes.  And foretastes are good.

     Unless they become substitutes.  O, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying Sweetness.  Let every loss and every delight send your hearts longing for heaven.

     Christmas.  What is it but this: I came that they might have life?  Marion Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I — that we might have Life, now and forever.

     Make your Now richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever.  It is so near.


John 10:10b-11  —  (Jesus said), “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Luke 2:8-14  — And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Revelation 21:1a…3-4  —  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…  I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Now God’s home is with people.  He will live with them.  They will be his people.  God himself will be with them and will be their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain.  All the old ways are gone.”


Away in a Manger, (verse three):

Be near us, Lord Jesus, we ask thee to stay,

Close by us forever and love us we pray;

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,

And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

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