Suffering and Hope at Christmas

I spent yesterday at a funeral. It was three days before Christmas. The funeral was a Catholic Mass.

One of the scripture readings came from the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8:14-23 (CEB)

“All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.

I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.  Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free.”

This passage is a reminder that our suffering is directly connected to our hope.

Christ’s suffering ushered in redemption. And our suffering is in Christ.

“We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering in labor pains up until now.”

This verse reminds me of these lines from the Christmas Carol “Oh Holy Night”

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth.

As we enter into a remembrance of the birth of Christ, we join with Mary, groaning together in labor pains. We are waiting for the ultimate redemption. We are waiting for the savior who was born, to come again.

Celebrating a Mass of Christian Burial three days before Christmas reminded me what Christmas represents. Our suffering, the suffering of the world, even death are like the pains of a woman in labor. And those pains lead to life. Just as the death of Christ leads to life.

This was the picture on the cover of the bulletin:

It’s the most joyful picture I’ve ever seen on the cover of a funeral bulletin. As we mourned death, we looked forward to new life.

Let us not forget, as we prepare for Christmas, and every day throughout the year, that all of creation is waiting for, and pointing towards its new birth.

We are God’s children. We are God’s heirs. And we groan inside as we wait to be adopted, and wait for our bodies to be set free.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn!

 

 

 

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