Christmas is heavenly. Harvest’s first baby potatoes dripping with butter, nestled beside fresh minted peas straight from Dad’s bounteous garden. The salivating aroma of Mum’s fruit cake in the oven, chock-full of sultanas and cherries, and her celebrated pavlova crowned with gold passionfruit pulp drizzled gently onto a whipped cream blanket. Mum and Dad are long gone; only the memory remains.
Years later across the ditch, the inherited Hutschenreuther dinner service risks another annual outing on a table gloriously laid with gold and red. The acrid tang of pulled Christmas crackers followed by merry groans as the corny jokes are read; thoughtful and fun presents exchanged; food beyond compare coming from a kitchen bursting with a delicious fusion of smells as my sister produces yet another family extravaganza. There is heart pain at the remembrance of our abundant joy.
Then 2020 saw the Zoom Christmas innovation, a special meal shared despite being two thousand kilometres apart. Now even a Zoom Christmas cannot be repeated. The matriarch, my beloved sister, is also gone.
This death thing is heinous. It parts, pains and depresses. Despite the bravado of atheists, most of us sense deep within that death just isn’t right, that it’s not normal despite being routine, otherwise it wouldn’t hurt so much. No wonder the Bible calls death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Why is there death at all?
Many millennia ago, a jarring voice shattered heavenly harmony. “I will ascend . . . I will raise my throne above . . . I will sit on the mount . . . I will ascend above . . . I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13,14 NASB). A perfect and resplendent being, a mighty angel, corrupted himself through pride and avarice, and embroiled heaven in war (Revelation 12:7). Like the ultimate spoilsport he is, this fallen angel then seduced humanity to join him in rebellion and misery, with death the tragic consequence.
But there was another voice, sweet with compassion and hope. “I will empty Myself . . . I will be a servant . . . I will become human . . . humble and obedient . . . even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7,8 paraphrased).
Two absolute opposites.
Amid the stink of blood and sweat, with a virgin’s birthing cries and an adoptive father’s helplessness, the “Defeater of Death” was born. Because of that first Christmas, I will hug my sister again, and praise my beautiful Jesus for making it possible.
Pam Driver attends Glenn Innes church, Auckland, NZ.