A Painful, Glorious Journey

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03, April 2018. Something reflecting the rays of the afternoon sun caught my eye. I was staking out the boundaries of a fence we hope to put in this spring and marking scrub cedar trees that needed to be removed. On the mulched area around our stack of firewood, I found a long forgotten Christmas ornament, a brass 3-D depiction of the Nativity that must have clung undiscovered to our Christmas tree when it was dragged to the woods and recycled for firewood.

The fact that it was neither run over by lawn equipment or flattened by someone’s unsuspecting footsteps was nothing short of a miracle. A little rinse under the faucet, a straightening of a couple of the tiny figurines, and the ornament was as good as new. Yet, what seemed most significant was not the rediscovery of a special little ornament, but that I should discover the Nativity on Easter Monday.

We forget how inextricably the Nativity and the cross are linked. The rock-hewn manger begins a journey that leads to a rock-hewn tomb; swaddling clothes lead to burial cloths. Mary, the mother of Jesus, shares the pain of her son on his lonely journey through her birth canal into the world. Once again, she stands by, this time experiencing the pain in the depths of her soul, as he willingly submits to a lonely, painful journey out of this world. 

The ornament is a reminder that at Christmas we must not forget the cross. And on Good Friday, we must not forget the manger. Yet, the journey of Christ did not end in a tomb. The tomb did not remained sealed. God opened the dark womb of the earth and raised Jesus to life not just for a season, but for eternity, the first fruits of our own promised resurrection.

I don’t how the ornament managed to survive the chainsaw, winter and all the other potential scenarios that could have meant its destruction. I do know that this next Christmas when I hang the ornament once again upon our tree I will remember the painful, glorious journey of Christ. I will remember that I am not promised a perfect journey, but that with and in Christ, my life that leads to death will one day lead to new life. A painful, glorious journey will take me into the presence of God and pain will be no more. Glory will be everlasting!

JUDITH STALLONS