Christmas is portrayed as a bright season with its lights, ornaments, and packaging. The reality for many of us though is that it’s one of the darkest times of the year. Christmas forces us to reflect on the past, and typically that is shining a bright light on an empty seat at the table like the one in Dicken’s Christmas Carol. Christmas can be the season of loss for a lot of us.
Maybe you lost a loved one this past year or maybe it’s been years since they passed. Christmas, more than any other time of the year, seems to highlight that reality. Someone who spent so many holiday seasons with us is no longer there. It can make the season of cheerful songs, goofy Claymation movies, and inflatable Santa Clauses feel so hopeless.
Soldiers won’t be coming home this year because they gave their life. Family members won’t be opening presents because they lost the battle with a terminal illness. I personally won’t see my best friend from high school because he lost his battle with PTSD from 2 tours with the Army. Loss is a part of life but the holidays evoke the deep emotions of loss, the grieving, and brokenness.
Advent isn’t just about longing and being lost; it’s also about loss. We live in a broken world; one just like the Israelites in the wilderness. Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way before, but the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were 40 years of loss. Sure, God was performing miracles and revealing Himself to His children, but that 40 years was a dedicated time for a generation to die. Every day in that season of life was one of burying loved ones. After the failed reconnaissance mission to the Promised Land, the fearful punishment of Korah’s Rebellion, and the plague for their complaining, Israel together said,
“12 Behold, we perish, we are undone (dying), we are all undone (dying)! 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?” Numbers 17:12-13
Their world in that moment and for that season seemed to be defined by loss and the weighty emotions that went with it. The movement of the Old Testament towards Jesus, the coming Savior, doesn’t ignore these emotions; it acknowledges them and looks through them. The Bible never denies suffering; it always looks through it and beyond it. Our suffering today is always meant to acknowledge that something is wrong here and now and to see that God is orchestrating something bigger through it. Death was never what we were made for, but because of sin, there’s death. God in His graciousness, however, is leading us back to Himself, to eternal life.
That was the point of the Promised Land. It wasn’t just a home, a land, a place for Israel. It was an image of where we are all headed through Christ, back to Eden, to the New Jerusalem. Death defines today because of sin, but because of Christ we are all headed to a place with no suffering, no tears, and no death. We are in just as much tension as the Israelites were in the Wilderness. They were waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for the return of Christ. While that tension can be difficult today, it’s always meant to lift our eyes up in the hope of That Day.
So while this season may not be as merry and bright as the songs lead us to believe, there is hope. We are all headed to a Promised Land where the reality of death and the emotional heaviness connected to it won’t be our realities anymore. You can lift your head up today because the Savior has come and will come again. Your present situation is not your eternal destination. You may experience this heaviness of loss this season, but my prayer is that you will also experience the reality of hope.
Day 1 – Numbers 17:12-13
“12 And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”
Day 2 – Deuteronomy 34:5-8
“5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.”
Day 3 – Psalm 23
“1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Day 4 – John 14:1-4
“1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
Day 5 – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
“20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
Day 6 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Day 7 – Revelation 21:1-4
“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”