December 22, 2023
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I dropped off a Christmas poinsettia at a friend's house - she was getting home from the hospital that day. Her husband died of cancer the week before and she was laid up with back surgery. For her, I guess the words "Merry Christmas" might have sounded kind of hollow.
Of course, she was not alone that Christmas. In many families each Christmas, there's someone missing around the table. My wife and I have had ten friends die in just a few weeks. There are clouds over Christmas for a lot of us, especially for the families of those who are gone.
Grief and sadness, mixed with "joy to the world" and "happy holidays" - it's a bittersweet cup at best.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I'd like to have A Word With You today about "Clouds Over Christmas."
Still, there is, as was announced that first Christmas, "good news of great joy" - even for those who are walking through "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4) as the Bible says. Maybe, especially for them.
Not long before Jesus was born, God sent this prophecy written in our Word for today from the Word of God, Luke 1:78-79 - "The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living...in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." Some 700 years before, the prophet Isaiah said, as He prophesied Messiah's birth, "On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned" (Isaiah 9:6; 9:1).
It is for those very people in the "land of the shadow" that Jesus came that first Christmas, because we all take our turn in that shadow. When the days run out for someone we love or for us. Everyone has a last Christmas, and few of us know which one that will be.
But that's why Christmas is such good news. Because Jesus came to illuminate those clouds and shine the light of heaven on the darkest corridor of all. He walked out of His grave to prove there is life beyond the funeral. Not some religious speculation; living proof. His Light has illuminated the mysterious darkness called death and shown us a heaven beyond.
But it took Him carrying His cross into that darkness and absorbing all the hell for all my sin. Jesus died so all of us God-disobeyers could, as He said, "cross over from death to life" (John 5:24). Death is an abyss of total darkness if we have to face it with our sins unforgiven, because "the wages of sin (the Bible says) is death" (Romans 3:23) - forever death. That's eternal separation from a totally holy God.
But here's the hallelujah part: "God sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). Death penalty paid. Death's power shattered. Now all death can do for those who belong to Jesus is send them home. Because of Jesus, death can't end a relationship between Jesus-followers; it can only interrupt it. There's a reunion coming!
So, in the words of the immortal 23rd Psalm, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." Darkness has lost. The Light has won. So we can say, "Merry Christmas!"
There's a wonderful peace - a peace like no other - in knowing that you are ready for eternity, whenever it comes and however it comes. It is a peace you can experience this Christmas season, my friend, and from now on.
If you'd like to know more about belonging to Jesus, I wish you'd join me at our website and let me show you there how you can be sure you belong to Him. It's ANewStory.com. You can receive, there, the greatest gift anyone could ever imagine. You know what the Bible says about it? "The gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23).