Christmas Points to Easter
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
We have just heard Jesus tell us some most comforting good news. Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep, who lays down his life for the sheep, who guards and protects the sheep from all danger. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd, and they follow him to all the good that God has prepared and intended for them. In her baptism, Norma was welcomed into God’s household … God’s flock, a sheep of Christ’s fold. She was claimed by God and for God, as one of God’s children, even before she became the Norma you knew and loved. Norma’s salvation, hope of resurrection and the promise of heaven, were hers as a gift from the loving God who created her and redeemed her by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Often times, we tend to get these things confused. We often think that good people, loving and kind people earn their ticket into heaven. Or that somehow God looks downs from on high and sees our goodness and recognizes and rewards us for the good people that we are. But no, scripture tells us that it really works the other way around. God takes the initiative. God in God’s deep and unconditional love for us finds us and in his mercy comes to us to be our God, to save us from sin and death, to bring us into his household. The good that we do, the love that we give and receive … all reflect the love we have first been given in Jesus Christ. It is a gift. Life is a gift. Life with God is a gift. The resurrection to eternal life … comes to us as a gift.
Now, many people will sympathize with you, and they will think your grief is compounded because Norma died just a few days before Christmas. That this most wonderful times of the year will now be for you forever marred because it marks now a time of deep loss. But that is not the case … not the case at all. No, instead … you who now mourn Norma’s loss, who remember her life, the love you had, the joy you shared, the adventures and fun-filled days, the friend you could depend on, you who have lost someone so near and dear and close that it is hard to tell where you ended and she began, you … you have seen the true meaning and important of Christmas … the incarnation of God to take on our human nature, suffer and die for us, and to rise again in victory over death.
Christmas points to Easter — Christ’s birth promises his resurrection -- So, we can hope in the life to come even as we at the same time mourn and grieve. Christmas points to Easter to we can hope for a future and new life together with Norma, in the glory of God’s presence, even as grieve the end of this life. The Christ-child points to the resurrected grown up Jesus so we can finally realize that all life and all that a life contains comes to us as precious gift from a loving God. How comforting it could be to see this sign of Christ’s nativity and remember that Christ was born, Christ lived and died, Christ rose again and will come again, for Norma … and for you. To remember in Christmas that life and all it contains comes to us as gift from the one who truly loved us.
This is the third day of Christmas … and according to the old English carol … on the third day of Christmas our true love gives to us three French hens. I can think of no better gift for you who mourn and grieve this morning. The story of the English carol the 12 Days of Christmas is that it was written as a catechism in code for Roman Catholics who could not openly practice their faith in Protestant England. So, each gift for each day is given by the true love who is Christ to the truly beloved the church. The partridge in the pear tree is Jesus, too. The two turtle doves the Old and New Testament of scripture. And today … three french hens — Faith. Hope and Love. I can think of no more timely gift for you than that which our true loves gives us by the power of the Spirit. By faith, you will be strengthened to follow where the master leads, trusting in his love for you; By hope, you will be able to travel through your grief without being overwhelmed by it; By love … the love of God you will experience in the support and friendship of those gathered here and those who care for you … you will not have to face anything alone, but will always know that love God has for you in the hands and hearts of those people close to you. Faith. Hope. Love. Gifts, like life itself from a loving and generous God.
Norma has heard the voice of Jesus … the good shepherd — first in baptism and throughout her life. She enjoys now all the gifts of heaven, the fruit of her faith, the fulfillment of her hope and the joy of knowing the fullness of the love of God. And for us who still journey … the same hope of life to come is ours for our comfort and strength … the same faith in the God who became human to be God with us promises to guide us through our pain and sorrow … and the same great love that created the universe enfolds us in the promise that we are God’s most lovely children. Your mourning and tears are but another sign of the love you shared and a promise and hope of the love that is yet to come.
So, once again God’s Christmas gift to you … three french hens — faith, hope and love — and the greatest of these is the love of Christ has for you. Amen.
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