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My wife’s mother died this week. Catherine Wilson Payne, born in Fleetwood, England, in March 1929, had lived a rich life and raised four children to healthy, productive adulthood—one of them my wife, Colette. Mamma Payne proudly doted on her eight grandchildren from her home in Sanderstead, south of London. She was an affable, gregarious woman who could strike up a friendly conversation with a lamppost and you’d half expect the lamppost to respond.

My wife’s pain was palpable, especially since the death came rather quickly and she was stuck here on this side of the Atlantic because of weather delays throughout Europe. I understood her pain. My father died in July. I had seen men die before, some of them friends, but no death hit me as hard as this, a deep rending in the depths of my spirit that I’d never felt with other deaths.

It’s always difficult having a death in the family, but this time of year seems especially inappropriate to have to deal with this pain. Or is it?

It is right and proper to celebrate the coming of the Incarnate Christ, but we must always remember the singular purpose for His taking on flesh to live—and die—among us. He came to save us from our sins and to destroy death. It was all part of the Plan:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began. (Proverbs 8:22-23)

The apostle Paul assures us that we have “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2).

I imagine our pain at the death of a loved one does not begin to match that suffered in the Godhead as Christ died on the cross, a willing sacrifice to save us from our sins so that we might live eternally with Him. And the hope we have because of what happened this season is that death is not the final end for those who hope in Him.

So celebrate, remember, and give thanks.

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