Pain for Christmas? Don’t knock it. Pain makes a great gift. My Christmas gift this year is knee replacement surgery. The sets of exercises four times a day make me yelp and bring tears to my eyes—but even that doesn’t rob me of the joy of knowing that after struggling along on crutches for two years—I will finally be able to walk normally again.
But no Christmas gift of pain can exceed the One God gave us. We love celebrating Baby Jesus being born into the world at Christmas. Nativity sets grace mantels, shelves, displays outside of homes and churches. It is a sweet and comfortable image. We sing beautiful hymns about Jesus coming into the world. Yet Baby Jesus is only the first half of the story.
We seldom contemplate the second half of the Christmas story. Jesus was not born to stay forever in our minds and on our mantels as a sweet baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and nestled in a manger. He came to die. He came to be beat and buffeted, have a crown of thorns pounded into His head, and hang naked on a cross to die in shame and reproach. Pain. No one ever suffered more pain than Jesus, Son of God, suffered. He died. Jesus didn’t come as an eternal Baby for Christmas scenes and plays—He came to die.
Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, we can face death unafraid. Death is swallowed up in victory. Death is a harmless shadow that threatens large upon the wall of our lives in moving, scary images—and vanishes impotently as soon as Jesus, the Light of the World, shines on it.
Pain is real. Few people enjoy pain. Even when it turns into a good gift. And what better gift is there than eternal life?