Ready to Die

As people get older, you sometimes hear them say, “I’m ready to die.” Does this mean there is something wrong with this person? Is he suicidal?

In my own life, God has given me eighty-eight wonderful years. At this advanced state, I find my body is wearing out. Not long ago my doctor asked me to see a specialist in order to evaluate a particular discomfort I was having. I found the specialist to be pleasant, and he prescribed several physical tests and x-rays. However, I told him I did not want to take those tests. This surprised him, for he felt these procedures were necessary in order to find what might be wrong. So he asked me, “Is there a chance you might be depressed?” When I told him that I was not, he asked why I refused to take tests that might prevent me from dying.

“Well,” I said, “I am an old man. When the Lord is ready to take me, I will go to heaven, not because of any thing I have done, but because of God’s grace. He made it possible by sending his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. Doctor, you are a gifted physician. Yet, when this life comes to an end and we are with God through Christ, that is better than anything this world can offer us.”

The doctor stared at me and then asked me to come back for one more appointment. I left him with the reassurance that I would return and he needn’t worry about me dying from self-infliction.

At my next appointment, we didn’t talk much about medicine. Instead we talked about eternity and some of the doctor’s personal concerns. I tried the best I could to give him a clear presentation of the salvation that has been offered to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. I offered to meet with him again and pursue this matter further. I have yet to hear from the doctor and, as far as I know, Jesus Christ has not yet been received. But that is okay, for the seed has been sown, and the Holy Spirit will take it from there.

I believe that I am anxious to go home when the Lord is ready to take me. Two thousand years ago, an old man by the name of Simeon told the Lord he was ready to die. I mentioned in my sermon two weeks before Christmas that the Bible gives us some beautiful stories surrounding the overall Christmas story. We talked about Mary and Elizabeth. Today’s text has another one of those stories. It is about Simeon.

Simeon was a righteous and devout man. He had received a promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. Eight days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple, as a requirement of the Law, to present him as one of the Lord’s own. This consecration of the Lord was very important for people who were God-fearing and wanted to please God.

While they were in the temple, Simeon took the baby in his arms and said. “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation . . .”

Simeon was saying, “I am ready to die; I am ready to go home.” Isn’t this story a beautiful part of our Christmas message? Simeon was anxious to let them know that this baby was God’s greatest gift. This child was God’s only begotten Son who had come to take away the fear of death. But his purpose on this earth would also pierce Mary’s heart as well. How she must have understood this as she stood beneath the cross of Jesus and saw his hands nailed to the cross.

“I am ready to die,” Simeon said. This is God’s gift when Jesus Christ lives in our hearts and we have received him. Then we, too, do not have to fear the grave.

Death is a concern to me to some extent. I hear people say from time to time, “I am not afraid to die, but I am concerned about how I am going to die.” That statement is true for me too. I don’t want to spend some agonizing weeks or months actively dying. That is something to be concerned about.

I am very attached to my loving family and don’t want to leave them. As a result of my wife’s stroke, she needs my care. Because of this reason, I would like to stay with her until she is taken to God.

I have had many great experiences serving in the ministry. I had a wonderful time as a young person, as a college student, and a seminary student. And what a great time I’ve had with a wonderful congregation who at times have had their problems but clung to their Savior.

In that sense of the word, death is more than deliverance and pain, for it has been conquered in Jesus Christ. Without our Savior, we are not prepared to stand before God Almighty, for he alone can speak on our behalf. Without our Savior, we will not go to heaven. Jesus told us in his Word, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you? I go to prepare a place for you. Where I go, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). God is not a universalist.

When Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”, Jesus replied, “I am the way, (THE way, not a way), I am the truth, (THE truth, not a truth), I am the life (THE life, not a life)” John 14:5-6.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father but by me. Though I don’t understand these words, I still believe them. And on the basis of this promise, I can say “I’m ready, Lord. I’m ready to die.”

The funerals I have conducted have three parts to them. One part deals with the eulogy, for we need to acknowledge this person who has lived a long life. Generally speaking, no matter how bad the person has been, some good thing can be said about him.

So I say a few words about the one being laid to rest. Then I speak a good text from the Word of God. Often it is the one I just quoted to you: “I have gone to prepare a place for you. And if I have gone to prepare a place for you, I will come and get you.” The Word of God actually has hundreds of texts referring to death being conquered in Jesus Christ. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-56).

For the third part of the funeral, I spend ten minutes or so telling the people what Jesus Christ has done. Then I ask the people, Are we ready to die? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you know that he has conquered death for you?

Many of them will perhaps say, “Yes, I do. Jesus is my Savior. I am ready to die.” However, some of those present will not be ready to die. A funeral is a marvelous chance to share the gospel with a person who will face God alone because he has rejected the Christ.

I am ready to die. That’s not a morbid statement; it is victorious. I am ready to die! Not because of my life and anything that I have done, but because of God’s grace.

I am ready to die. With that certainty, I can enjoy life here on this earth while I wait for the Savior to come.

We need to be ready. And we need to be concerned that our friends and our relatives are also ready. When the time is right, it is our God-given obligation to tell them so they will not live with the false hope that everything is all right and we are all going to heaven. For this is not the case.

Why Are We So Blessed?

Christmas has many wonderful stories surrounding it in addition to the story of the virgin birth. One of those stories is the basis for our message today.

Joseph and Mary had not known each other in a sexual way. She was a virgin, and yet the angel had told her that she was going to have a child. Mary replied to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” She then decided to visit her cousin Elizabeth. So Mary left her home in Nazareth and traveled to the Judean hills where Elizabeth lived.

When Elizabeth saw Mary, she was quite amazed and asked this question that is a part of our text today. “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Elizabeth is saying many things with these words. She is telling us that Mary’s child is not an ordinary child. He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And now Elizabeth was entertaining his mother! When you stop to think about it friend, her question Ð Why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord should come to be with me? Ð is a pretty good question to ask during the Christmas holidays. It is a good question to ask anytime. I hope that, during this Christmas season, you will ask this question both as an individual and as a family as you gather around the tree.

What are some of our blessings?

We are blessed to know our sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, we are born into sin. Since God can have nothing to do with sin, we need to have our sins forgiven in order to be with him. The only one who can forgive our sins is the Babe of Bethlehem’s manger, Jesus himself. He has taken our guilt away. Without him we are lost.

No longer do we have to deny our wrongs or blame them on something or someone else. All we have to do is confess our sins, whatever they may be. Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon himself, and in him we are saved. Our sin has been taken away Ð not because of our good works but through Christ’s grace Ð in the sending of his Son to Bethlehem’s manger.

How else have we been blessed? The Christmas Gospel gives us a purposeful life. Stop and think what our purpose is here on this earth. Perhaps we have a family to raise and a job to do. These are important purposes in life. Yet no matter how important they are, our primary purpose is to serve God.

As we look into Bethlehem’s manger, we find a baby who will not only grow up to take away our sins by his vicarious suffering and death, but One who also calls us to serve him. He is not only our Savior, he is also our Lord.

When we understand this as our purpose for living, other things fall into place. We will be the best workers, the best parents we can be. These purposes in life are very important, but our most important purpose here on this earth is to sing praises to God as our Savior and Lord.

In what other ways have we been blessed? My list includes my Christian family Ð my wife, children, and in-laws. I have been favored to live with a God-fearing, Christ-loving wife for sixty-five years. We’ve had our devotional times and prayed together. We prayed for our children who have introduced our grandchildren to the Lord Jesus and taught them the stories of the Christian Gospel. They read Bible history to them so that our grandchildren might know more about the background of Jesus’ day. We have been highly favored and continue to be so.

Another year has passed, and soon we will assemble once again for Christmas at our house even though we could easily have been taken home to be with the Lord before now. We will eat a wonderful meal, have a Christmas devotion, and then pass out gifts. That is our tradition.

If this is the tradition at your house as well and you have an unbeliever in your group, reading the Christmas Gospel will provide a great opportunity to share the reason why we take time out for Jesus. He is the reason for the season, and he promises us eternal life. This opportunity gives us the chance to say to the unbeliever in a gentle manner, “If you want that Savior, he will be with you. When you’ve heard enough, seen enough, and decide to stop fighting his invitation, then welcome him into your life. Ask him to make your relationship with him grow.” What a blessed experience that would be!

I am also blessed by being a member of the family of God in the world. Wherever I have traveled in this world, I met a committed Christian and was in the presence of a brother or a sister in Christ. They too celebrated Christmas. They too went to the cross of Calvary for the forgiveness of their sins. The blessed truth of the Gospel extends to the far corners of the earth.

These blessings are offered to everyone, for Jesus wants us all to be saved. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). While we are here on this earth, we can taste just a little bit of the Church Triumphant. In that Church are friends who may not be the closest people you have ever known, but you find an openness there when you need their help, when doubts of God’s goodness begin to creep in. How could God take away my child? He has been such a blessing to us, and now we don’t have him anymore. Can you help us?

It is true that we are very blessed people as a result of the Christmas gospel. We are blessed, not because we go to church and try to do some good things, although it is right to attend church, but God blesses us for more reasons that our good deeds. We have been blessed because of God’s mercy and his grace.

What is the answer to our question, Why do I receive so many blessings? Because Christ came to live in us.

Just a Closer Walk: Stick Together

A mother was busily cooking supper in the kitchen and asked her five-year-old son to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. The little boy was afraid of the dark and didn’t want to go into the old-fashioned pantry alone, so he pleaded his case: “Mommy! I’m scared!”

His mother responded, “Johnny. Be a big, brave boy and just walk in and get it. I need it right away for this food I am preparing.”

Johnny repeated his fear. “Mommy, I’m too scared to go in there by myself.”

Mother used a different approach: “It’s okay, son. Jesus will be in there with you. Now go and get mother the soup.”

So Johnny opened the door slowly and peaked inside. It was very dark, he was very scared, and his hands trembled. But an idea popped into his head. He said, “Jesus, if you are in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?”

The question has often been asked Ð Can we really have communion with Jesus Christ as we would with our earthly friends? Can we personally know the same Jesus who walked the roads of Galilee so many years ago and whose words are recorded in the New Testament? Can we actually meet him and commune with him, not just read and treasure his words, follow his example, or imagine him? Can we ask for his help in our everyday affairs just like Johnny did as he looked into that pantry?

The Gospel writers tell us that yes, we can have a close, personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Millions of people through the ages testify that we can, as does the Church. That conviction is rested squarely on the Risen Christ who promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.

The Gospel song, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” testifies to that reality as well. As the song writer appeals, “Just a closer walk with thee, grant it Jesus is my plea. Daily walking close to thee; let it be, dear Lord, let it be.” He is saying, I am weak, but you are strong. Jesus, come and take care of me. I want a closer walk with you.

So how does one have that kind of close, personal walk with Jesus? In this “Closer Walk With Thee” series, we’ve studied three portions of Scripture. The first message looked at the words of Jesus “Abide in me as I abide in you. . . . Apart from me you can do nothing.” We stick with Jesus as we surrender ourselves to his care on a daily basis, as we depend on him, and as we entrust our lives to his care.

In the second message, we looked at Jesus’ words “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We come into a closer walk with Jesus as we study his Word and allow him to speak to us. His truth sets us free.

Today we finish our series by looking at Hebrews 10:19-25. The writer of this book was concerned about the faith life of a congregation. It had gotten a little blasŽ and cold. In chapter ten, he offers some common, practical advice to help them stoke the fire once again and grow closer in their relationship with Jesus.

Three times the writer says, “Let us.” Let us first of all come to worship. He writes,

¥ “Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, . . .”

¥ “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, . . .”

¥ Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together . . .”

We need God’s truth to feed us in the worship experience. We need to see that we are not alone in our faith as we rub shoulders with brothers and sisters in Christ and praise God together. We need to hear the words of forgiveness spoken to us after a time of confession.

Let us approach (the throne of grace) with a true heart in full assurance of faith.

We need to come to worship. We need to have the habit of worship. The Bible tells us that Jesus went to the synagogue to worship, as was his custom (Luke 4:16).

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering . . .

We can securely rest in the knowledge that he holds this world in his hand. We are his own, and he will never allow anything to snatch us away from him. The great day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It’s all under control.

Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds . . .

Let us stick together in this walk with Jesus Christ. Let us commit ourselves to look out for each other and encourage each other. Let us help each other grow in our walk with Jesus Christ. Invest in others, and let others invest in you as you remind each other of Christ’s calling to be witnesses in the world, to pray for one another’s growth and heartaches, for guidance and wisdom from above.

How can we do this? By “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” Christians need each another. We are God’s gift to one another in order that we might experience the presence of Christ. Jesus himself said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20).

E. Stanley Jones wrote, “Everyone who belongs to Jesus, belongs to everyone who belongs to Jesus.” We are called to community. We often talk about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as if it’s just me and Jesus. But the truth is, Christ calls us into community and promises to meet us in community groups and in friendships with other Christians.

Dietrick Bonhoeffer wrote a book called, “Life Together.” In it he writes, “Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened, because living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves to the truth. They need other Christians as bearers or proclaimers of the divine word of salvation.”

Christianity means community in Jesus Christ. We are called to be in the habit of meeting together in fellowship and Bible study in Christ’s name.

If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ, stick with him and surrender yourself to his care each day. Stick with him in devotion and study of the Scriptures. Share your life, your encouragement, and your service to other believers around you.

Discover a spiritual mentor with whom you can share the Word of God on a regular basis. Join two or three others on a weekly basis in a devotion, Bible study, prayer, and conversation about how Jesus has been working in your life. It is so encouraging to hear stories of how others have seen Jesus at work in a variety of ways. By joining in a small group, you will experience the faithfulness of God working in your life. In the midst of that group, you will discover the truth of Jesus’ words: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Stick with Christ, stick with the Word, stick with one another. That is how one grows closer to Jesus Christ.

Repent

Today is the second Sunday in Advent, when we meet John the Baptist. He was a cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah. God sent John into the wilderness by the Jordan River to preach a message of repentance and baptism.

John’s message is a necessary theme of the Advent season. We need an understanding of the sinfulness within the world and within our own being in order to appreciate the coming of the Christ child and the necessity of the forgiveness of our sins.

John’s language was blunt, yet spoken in a pleading manner. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not comfort yourselves by saying, ÔWe have Abraham as our father.’ The time has come and now is here that it is necessary to produce good fruit, for the bad fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Imagine Billy Graham coming to town and preaching this message to people who have heard the Law and the Gospel all their life. It is not a new message, yet it is being taught in such a way that people sit and listen.

This is what was happening as far as John the Baptist was concerned. He was telling the people that it is necessary to get right with God and be in a personal relationship with him. They should not rely on their Jewish heritage, or their ability to adhere to the laws of the Jewish religion. Going to the synagogue would not save them.

Isn’t that a message for us? We need to hear the message that we are to be right with God. Many of you are in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; some probably are not. Consequently, the message of repentance is truly right for this day as we prepare our hearts to meet the coming Christ child in the manger.

In many cases, we do not have a correct understanding of our true nature as a human being. It makes us feel good to compare ourselves to the rest of the world and say that we are basically good people. We try to do what we believe is right and keep from doing what is wrong. In fact, we do many admirable things for which I am sure our Lord would tell us, “Well done.” However, those good deeds will never, ever save us, for what can we do about our own sins?

When I ask a guest in our home if they’d care for a drink or something to eat, quite often they will respond, “No, thank you. I’m good.” While their response is polite and a proper answer if they do not wish to have any food, it proves a great opportunity to begin a discussion on original sin. You are not good, and neither am I. It is good to understand this.

Quite often a discussion will ensue as they say, “I am good! I do a lot of good things.”

That may be true, but the Bible tells us,

“. . . just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned . . .” (Romans 5:12).

“Behold, I was born in sin, and in iniquity did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

The human being is by nature sinful and unclean; we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

It is necessary for us to understand this concept clearly. Our ability to right things that are wrong cannot happen, even though we try desperately to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Therefore, the message of repentance must be proclaimed. It is because of our sins that the Christ child had to be born.

When the lights are turned out at night, as we lie in bed and take an honest look at our own lives, we can see things in our life that are not good. Hate, not caring for other people as God has told us to do, disparaging words, so many little things. Yet we try to keep our lives in good shape. We do some nice things like feed the hungry, clothe the poor, build housing for some who are without a roof over their heads. All of these things are pleasing to God.

However, we also find hate, envy, and strife in our being. This is where John’s words speak to us. What we need most is Christ, for when we try to right what is wrong in our life, we fail. But when we rely on the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, then we are in a right relationship.

We try to correct some of the momentous problems facing our land today. The Congress, the White House, and the judicial branches of the government work to try to fix them. Some issues perhaps are solved and consequently our land continues to exist in harmony. However, if we are to have real healing, we must turn our problems over to the Lord Jesus Christ. John’s message of repentance to the people of his day speaks to us in our day as well.

As we look further into this text, we see the people asking, “What should we do then?” John answers by making his message more specific. “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” And to the tax collectors he said, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.”

We have so much, and yet so many people are hurting. This is also where we need to repent. For example, our churches spend millions of dollars on expensive building projects. These buildings may be needed, and it is proper for the house of the Lord to be beautiful. However, does God really want us to have such nice things and then have so little left to give to world missions that take the Gospel of Jesus Christ out to the world? Is God pleased when, even though we know the Gospel well, we do not share it? I don’t think so. This is the time for repentance.

John the Baptist’s cry goes out to us today as our Lord Jesus Christ lovingly tells us to just repent. In this Christmas season, we need to feel sorrow for our sin and turn to Jesus for righteousness. We need to cry out to the Lord Jesus in Bethlehem’s manger asking him to invade our hearts and make us new people, with a new spirit and a new understanding of the Church’s mission and what our lives as Christians should be.

As parents we need to repent for giving our children everything they want while we ignore others who have real needs going unmet. We need to teach our children to use their time at work in the Kingdom of God, not just entertaining themselves. We must take a real look at this part of our lives and acknowledge a great need for repentance. Then we will know the gospel better, experience God’s grace in our souls, and share it more freely with others.

In this second Sunday in Advent, we need to ask ourselves where we need to repent. Let us get rid of the idea that we do not need any repentance, for we basically are good people. The resistance in us to repent must be crushed as we listen carefully to the words of John the Baptist. “Repent ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

He Will Come Again

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The Advent season prepares us for Christmas and the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s text reminds us that one day Christ Jesus will come again. Watch, for Jesus Christ is going to return.

There will be signs, as the text tells us. Peculiar things, such as storms, will be happening in the world. I thought of this just a few weeks ago when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast. Cities in New York, New Jersey, and up into New England were badly hit, and millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed.

We have numerous wars happening. While we have always had wars, these are a bit different. In the past we knew who the enemy was, but today the enemy is sprinkled all around us. This causes me to wonder if God will be coming to this world soon.

I think of the Scripture passage: “No one knows about that day or hour; not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32, 33).

Our Lord is talking in this passage about his second coming, which will be quite different from his first coming. In Philippians 2:9-11 we read, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that (when he comes the second time) at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Scripture also gives us this thought from St. Paul in I Corinthians 15:55-57, “ÔWhere, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus came the first time as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger. As he grew up, men mistreated him, said evil things about him, and finally killed him by putting him on a cross. When it was all over, Jesus could say from Calvary’s cross, “It is finished.” Three days later, he was resurrected from the grave, and victory had been gained. Jesus then ascended into heaven. When he returns, it will be as the reigning King, the Victor, who has defeated sin, death, and the devil.

Today I think especially about the enemy of death. We don’t like to talk about it very much, and we strive to live a long life on this earth, for we don’t want to think of being away from our loved ones. Nevertheless, life on this planet is only temporary. However, when Jesus’ second coming arrives, we will have a life that is forever. All people will be gathered before him and confess him as their Savior and Lord. Those who have died trusting in him will have life everlasting and will receive the promised lasting city, the city longed for.

And so, as we battle in this temporary stay on earth, we look with anticipation to that glorious day when Jesus Christ will return. That day is in the future. In the meantime, we struggle with death as the enemy. And it is difficult to imagine the struggle without Jesus Christ.

I’d like to introduce three situations in my life where I’ve witnessed death as a real enemy. It is an enemy where, if it were not for Jesus Christ, one would wonder what life is really all about.

The first situation happened when I was a young theological student. I had a good friend named Kurt. He was a zealous person for the Lord Jesus Christ with great plans for his ordination day. He planned to marry his fiancŽe and then work as a missionary in China. I often wondered how one could be so excited about leaving their loved ones and going to China, but Kurt was anxious to do it.

One night, as we were talking, he said to me, “Feel this lump on my body. It bothers me, so I am going to the doctor tomorrow to see what it is.” The next day he told me, “The doctor doesn’t know what this lump is, so he is going to take a biopsy. Then I will get the word.”

Some days later Kurt told me, “I got the word today, and it is not good. It is malignant. We hope it will somehow just disappear, but for now we will just pray about it.”

This is a picture of the temporariness of life as it came to this young man in his early 20s. He had planned a wedding with a woman whom he loved very much. What should he do now? Should he continue preparing to go to China? Kurt decided to wait until the summer was over and then see what would happen.

When we came back to school in the Fall, Kurt didn’t have to tell us what was happening, we could see the cancer was progressing. He did not look good. He said to us, “I am a dying man. I love Mary very much and want very much to make her my wife and the mother of our children. I would love to go to China. But for now we will just have to take life one day at a time.” It was very tough.

One day he called and asked us to visit him in his parental home. So a carload of us seminarians had our last visit with Kurt. I will never forget it. Kurt read a devotion, then he read the Scriptures and offered prayers. We sang, and then he said to us, “I’ll beat you to heaven, and I’ll meet my Savior face to face.” Death had been conquered, even though it had made his life very short. Too short as far as we mortals were concerned.

The second situation happened when I was a young pastor. A young couple in our congregation very much wanted a baby, and they were just delighted when they learned they were going to have a baby. But then one night I received a call saying that the wife had gone to the hospital. The next thing we heard was that both mother and baby had died. Here I was, a young pastor, not well acquainted with funerals of that kind. I wondered what I would say to them? I kept coming back to this: Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world, and she (and her baby) were now with him. Still, as comforting as that message is, it was very traumatic for that family to see that young wife and mother lying in her casket with a child in her arms. Our minds ran wild with thoughts of, “O, what life could have been like if they had only lived,” and “O, how we loved her,” and “O, how she wanted to live!” How comforting it was to know that, because of her faith in Jesus Christ, she had gone to be with Him.

At Jesus’ second coming, he will make it clear that those who have died trusting in him will live in him eternally. Facing death in this life is difficult, but what makes life seem more permanent is to know that, when these days are over, we will be with him!

My third story is that of being an old man and living in a retirement center. A few of the “kids” there are in their 70s; most of us are in our mid-age Ð 80s; some are in their 90s; and one person is in his 100s. So what do we hear now and then? “So and so just died.” That is not so unusual, for that person had signs telling him his body was weakening. God’s Word has made it clear that the length of life is three score year and ten, or if by reason or strength four score year. We all expect death to come for us soon. Life is temporary. Yet, even at this age, we’d like for it to continue. But it can’t. We all must die. However, when we die trusting that Jesus Christ has defeated death, he is ours and we are his forever.

That is the only way life can have any permanency. The unbeliever, as he breathes his last breath, has no promise of a heavenly home, for Jesus has said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father, but by me.”

And so my plea today, on this first Sunday in Advent, is that you will turn your thoughts and your prayers to him and cry out, “Lord Jesus, I receive you!” Those who die while trusting in Christ will live. Death has then been conquered in us, for we will be transferred from this life into the arms of our Savior. And that life is forever.