Saturday, December 23, 2006

O Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Ever since I heard a sermon last Sunday on the Christmas story, I'd been wondering if the two-thousand-year-old story would ever catch me as new and fresh again. It sounds horrible to say, but I feel like after 25 Christmases, I've been through the story from the point of view of every character (even the lamb, thank you Max Lucado) and analyzed it from every angle. And that's not to say that I've lost the wonder, but the freshness seemed gone.

And then tonight, I went and saw Handel's Messiah. And, if you want to talk about new and fresh, that would not be it for me as I've been to see it every year for the last couple and analyzed it once for a music history class.

But this year, they did the entire thing - all 53 pieces. And it was in a tiny little recitative buried between the infamously grand Air "the trumpet shall sound" and the not quite so famous duet "O death, where is thy sting?" that I saw the Christmas story from the point of view of a character I had not recently pondered: me.

Just two lines in the program, the recitative read: "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallow'd up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:54) And I don't know why it was that one line that caught my attention more than "the trumpet shall sound," but that's when it hit me.

Christmas is not it's own story. Christmas actually comes in the middle of the story. The story started many, many years ago in a garden, when humans first chose to disobey God, bringing death as an inevitable part of humanity. That death has permeated everything; sin runs rampant in our world. For us to imagine a life without death or sin is, dare I say, impossible. But God knows what it was like, He remembers His original vision for humanity: close friends and companions. So, rather than giving up on us and starting out with a new world, He decided to enter our world and literally take the problem of sin into His own hands.

And that's Christmas: God loving us enough to penetrate humanity. And what a welcome we gave Him. Michael W Smith's "Welcome to Our World" puts it so clearly: "hope that you don't mind our manger; how I wish we would have known."

God, who created the universe with a word, becomes a tiny little baby. He takes on our flesh; we can never say to Him, "you don't understand what it means to be human."

"And, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death; even death on a cross." (Philippians 2)

But then He conquered death. He made it possible for us to also escape Death and experience Him as He originally intended.

We're still in the middle of the story. There will come a day when Death will truly lose it's sting and we will experience life in all it's sinless abundance. I can't imagine what it will be like to have Death swallow'd up in victory, but one day it's going to happen.

And that is the wonder of the Christmas story. It isn't just a tale of some supernatural experiences that happened in a far-away land 2000 years ago. It is the reality of what God has done for us and the anticipation of what Life will be like when we can fully experience the repercussions of His selfless act.

Oi. Seems like a bunch of ramblings and I'm too tired to edit. But I hope you can find a nugget of truth in there that you can relate to.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! COME TO WINNIPEG!!!I'LL BE HERE!!! You and your sisters can make a Christmas song to that CRAZY thing you did when you came to visit me at the appartment! That was wild! HA!