Life amid death

December 2, 2020 · Print This Article

2020 – it’s been the worst of years and it’s been the best of years, to misquote Dickens in his famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities. It will go down in history as the year COVID-19 struck leaving few lives, if any, untouched by this invisible killer. This year my life has been touched by death. Back at the start of the pandemic, a friend I had known for over 40 years died of Coronavirus. As the year moved on, two other friends who I had known for a similar time also died, one from cancer and the other from breathing complications. Two weeks ago, my daughter’s father-in-law passed away, I had known him for a much shorter time. A week later my aunt died after a long and successful life. She was the last remaining member of her generation in my family. Death, like taxes, is inevitable and has made this year the worst of years.

Yet, as I write, my wife and I are celebrating the birth of the newest member of our family, our first grandchild. Amidst all this death a new life has been born that has brought joy and hope for the future, making this the best of years too. I had forgotten how tiny and vulnerable a newborn baby is. He is reliant completely on his parents for his existence; they provide him food and warmth, change his nappy when required, and comfort him when distressed. Without his parent’s loving care, he would soon be another statistic in death’s column.

While my grandson brings our family great joy, an even greater joy is that the Christian Bible shows humanity’s future is secure because of the coming of another baby into the world. It’s incredible for me to think that the God, whom the heavens cannot contain, should become a tiny, vulnerable baby totally dependant on his creation to be fed and changed and kept alive.

Now I love to sing Christmas Carols, but there is one that I have difficulty in singing, and that’s Away in a Manager. The reason for my hesitation in singing it is because of the verse that goes,

The cattle are lowing [mooing]
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

If there is one thing my new grandson has reminded me of it’s that newborn babies cry, they cry a lot. They yell their heads off. It’s a healthy sign that the baby is alive, responding to things, and is a human being. When I think about babies, I often remember the story of Superman. The baby born on the disintegrating planet Krypton is sent by his parents in a space capsule to earth. The boy grows up to be Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, and no one can tell that Kent is not a human being but Superman – until he goes into a phone box. He looks like a human, but don’t be fooled. Christians believe that when Jesus was born God actually became human, he wasn’t just pretending to be human. This was not play-acting. The divine Son of God was no hologram or apparition. He became flesh.[1] He would have cried in the manager, soiled his nappy, and needed his mother’s milk to enable him to grow. If this were not so then Jesus was only pretending to be human, and the claims of Christianity fall flat.

Around 33 years after his birth history records that Jesus was killed on a Roman Cross, having his flesh ripped apart and his blood spilled on the ground. The eye-witness testimony of the early Christians is that this same Jesus didn’t remain dead but came alive again. Out of death came life, and it’s this belief that spawned the Christian church. It’s this belief that gives Christians hope. That even in the worst of years where death has been all around us, there is the hope of life because a baby has been born – not my grandson, but the Son of God. Incredible? – yes. Unbelievable and just a fairy story on a par with Superman? – millions of Christians don’t think so. Why not check out this crying baby for yourself – if you do 2020 might just become the best of years.

Barry Robinson

[1] The Bible, John chapter 1, verse 14, (NIVUK).

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