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Jesus’ birth leads us to heaven

By Thurman Hayes

Like many of you, I love this time of year. As I type these words, I do so beneath a small Christmas tree in a coffee shop and can look up and see lovely greenery hung in the shop’s front window. The decorations, the lights, the traditions, the meals, the celebrations and being with family — I enjoy it immensely.

Yet for many people, Christmas is a sad time of year, for some of those very same reasons. As they take part in the rituals, the meals, the parties and celebrations of the season, there is a gnawing grief that stalks them. That’s because every one of those Christmas events was a special time they spent with a loved one — a loved one who is no longer here. The very times that used to bring such joy now are mingled with sadness, because doing those things in the absence of their loved one reminds them that death has taken them away.

No doubt many of you who are reading these words right now can relate. You know this pain. This column is especially for you.

Nothing I say here can take that pain away. Earth is not heaven. Our joys in this fallen world will always be mingled with pain. But if you follow Jesus as your Savior and King, let Christmas remind you that a new world is coming. It will be a world without suffering, without death, without tears of grief.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus not as an end in itself. No, we celebrate His birth because of what His birth led to. It led to a perfect life, a death for sinners like us on a cross, and a resurrection from the dead that defeated death for all who trust in Him. It led to the ascension and exaltation of Jesus as King, and it will lead to his return, when he will renew the whole creation and abolish death forever.

Jesus’ birth unleashed a chain of events that will one day result in a brand new world. A renewed creation in which heaven and earth will become one, and His followers will live in glorified bodies that will no longer be subject to aging, disease, sin or death.

Are you ready for that day? If you have turned to Jesus in repentance and faith and yielded your life to Him as Savior and King, you are ready.

Until then, God gives us His Spirit, who comforts us and gives us the grace we need to live — and even rejoice — in the midst of a broken world. We can rejoice because we know our earthly sorrows are temporary, and that our life in the new world Jesus is bringing will be forever. We know how this story ends, and it will be better than all we ask or imagine.

Tomorrow at First Baptist Church of Suffolk, 237 N. Main St., we will offer candlelight Christmas Eve services, at 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. I want to personally invite you to come. If you do attend one of these services, be sure to introduce yourself to me. I would absolutely love to meet you.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.