Countdown to Christmas: Day 15. "Good Christian Men, Rejoice"

Good Christian Men, Rejoice

Good Christian friends, rejoice
with heart and soul and voice;
now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all
to gain his everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save! 

I appreciate the forthright nature of this one. If, in fact, Christ was born to save, then we need not fear the grave. I've had the honor of presiding at more than a few grave side ceremonies after funeral services. Lately, more families seem to forego this ritual. Some aren't burying their loved ones; they opt for cremation. Others choose a brief chapel service at the cemetery. After years of witnessing these, I know why.

When a casket is lowered into the grave, it speaks to the finality of death. This is the end. There's no reversing, undoing or backtracking from this moment.

It's over. He's gone.

She's lost to us, forever.

There's nothing more ominous, more heartbreaking then peering down into an occupied grave.

I know. This theme feels more suited for a Lent offering, than an Advent one. But acknowledging the grave reminds us of the whole aim of Christ's arrival at Christmas: to save. On the grand scale, Christ arrives to give His life, so a lost humanity can find its way back home to a gracious God. So yes, Christ comes to save us from spiritual death through his sacrifice on the cross.

And because of his resurrection, we need not fear physical death. Maybe this is why so many funeral officiants include this line from 1 Corinthians in their talks: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" Christ comes to rescue us, both from the pain of spiritual death and the fear of physical death.

And he comes to save us from all the lesser graves along the way: the grave of despair, the tomb of addiction and the crypt of unresolved anger. These are just a few of the markers of emotional and psychological loss. Jesus comes to spare us from death in all of its forms. It doesn't mean there won't be heartache and loss along life's winding road. It does mean those losses don't have to permanently shatter us.

If Christ is born to save, what do you need to be rescued from this Christmas?

Craig Custance