The casket under the Christmas tree – December 23, 2021

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10


Military Devotion – December 23, 2021

Devotion based on John 10:10

See series: Military Devotions

Funerals don’t mix well with the Christmas season. Yet, people die, and mourners do weep during the season that proclaims, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

Death doesn’t take a holiday.

While the loss of a loved one is always painful, the calls of “Merry Christmas!” may feel like they are twisting the knife that has stabbed the souls of those left behind. “It just shouldn’t be!” is the thought that flashes through the mind.

“Surely this is the work of the devil!” we might think. Who else would be so mean as to inflict such pain at such a time? The next thought might be, “Why didn’t God prevent this?” “Surely, he could have chosen a better time for the person to die!”

But yesterday I conducted a funeral. I stood among the fragrant poinsettias and looked at the congregation over a casket holding a body without a soul.

Close to the casket was a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree, brimming with lights. At its top shone an angel ornament.

It was a jarring sight. Beneath the Christmas tree is where we expect to receive wonderful presents. We do not expect to find death there.

To place a casket under a Christmas tree seems to be sacrilege!

It is not.

The casket under the Christmas tree is a picture of the true condition of the human race.

The casket shows the words, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” still ring true. People die. People die every day. All people will die until Jesus returns to end this creation.

The tree proclaims that death will not triumph. The evergreen tree may stand in a forest surrounded by others that have lost all signs of life. Their branches hang empty. Their leaves have fallen to decay.

The evergreen, the one chosen to be a Christmas tree, brims with life. It portrays the declaration of faith.

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD” (Psalm 118:17).

Is this not the meaning of Christmas? Is this not the gift of Christmas?

Trees have played a major role in the plan of salvation. The forbidden tree containing the knowledge of good and evil was a threat to mankind. Tasting its fruit opened the door to disaster. Life would now end. It would not end well.

The tree of life was the opposite. It offered life without end. But because of the curse brought about by sin, never-ending life would have resulted in never-ending misery. It would mean perpetual separation from God and everything good.

The Creator protected our first parents from that disaster: “He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

Earthly death is God’s gift to enable us to break free from the sentence of eternal death.

Another tree was used to rescue us. We sing of that tree with the words: “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.”

The death of the Son of God who became human broke the curse and offered life—not just for a little while, but forever.

Jesus declares: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).

The casket of a child of God holds the body of one who will live forever.

It proclaims again the words of Jesus: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

It fits well under the Christmas tree.

We sing the words of the old Christmas song:
“And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.” Amen.

Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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