From Foe to Friend: How the Hope of Christmas Transforms Suffering and Death

We are on a journey with one destination: a brick wall that signals our obliteration. For some, the ride is bumpy, hurtling ever faster towards that staunchly immovable wall. For others, the ride is long and smooth. It ambles through peaceful plains, lands of plenty so pleasant they make them forget where they are headed. The illusion tells us we shall go on thus forever, but the persistent, fearful whisper of our hearts will not let us forget where we are headed.

Death. We meet with it every day, in aging bodies, in tragedies, in broken wombs and cancer diagnoses. Some will say it is a part of life, but can darkness have fellowship with light? Can the dusk embrace the dawn? Deep down we know…we know that at death’s fateful door we meet not with our natural ending, but our unnatural curse. Life pulses with beauty and meaning and goodness and yet it ends with such pain and weakness and shame. Something has gone terribly wrong.

It seems that if God should want to right this wrong, He would simply change our destination, put us on a different path altogether, but God is in the business of re-purposing things. He not only creates. He recreates. That which was meant for evil, He means for good. That which was intended for our destruction, He uses for our regeneration. That arrow which aims to pierce, He makes to heal.

In Christmas, we see the dawning of that strange and beautiful plan. We wanted the abolishment of our sufferings. We wanted a conquering king, bringing his power and triumph, but instead, He came first as a sacrificial lamb. He came first embracing, not banishing, the weakness and brokenness of humanity. Now, this side of the cross, victory is sure, but not complete.

Thus, we find ourselves still here, still assuredly plodding along towards our shared fate. No matter which way we try to turn, all roads converge unyielding to that spot. God, of course, has done something different than we ourselves would choose. He has not changed our path. He has joined us on it. He has not torn down the wall of death. He has cut in it a door. He has not yet vanquished our foe. He has made it our friend. That lion which roared to consume us, He has tamed to purr and welcome us home.

It remains that none of us can avoid the door. Walk through it we must. Only now we walk through, not in terror, but in hope, knowing that Christ has walked through before us. He holds it open for all who come in faith, believing that light and life will greet us on the other side. And someday…the trumpets will sound and the wall of death will crumble at the coming of our king. That final enemy who has already bowed before His power will on that day be destroyed forever.

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