The first empty grave is only the first grave to empty, for on the last day all graves will be empty—those of all we mourn at Christmas who have died in Christ.
December 28 is observed by many churches as the “Feast of the Holy Innocents,” the young boys around Bethlehem slaughtered on the orders of King Herod, who hoped that he could destroy newly born king he had heard of from Eastern magi.
He failed, the child escaped, and this king hadn’t really intended to supplant him in the first place. Those boys died for nothing, other than to satiate the jealousy and cruelty of a tinpot despot who wasn’t even a king in the customary sense, more of an administrator who ruled at the pleasure of Rome.
Sometimes death is unavoidable, yet the deaths of those children felt pointless.
Death and grief at Christmas are so common that some churches even have special services to acknowledge the hurt that many people feel at this time. They call them “Blue Christmas” services, and they attempt to provide comfort to those who grieve while still celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s a tricky balancing act but necessary for those whose sorrow makes the season anything but jolly.
When you look carefully at the Christmas accounts in Matthew and Luke, death is everywhere. Why were Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem in the first place? A tax. How do you suppose Rome would have responded if people refused to pay? It wouldn’t have been the presumption of innocence and a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers. If it wasn’t death outright, it was a prison where death usually found you, quickly or slowly.
When Jesus was brought to the temple for presentation, a sacrifice was required. For Jews of meager means, the requirement was to bring “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Sound familiar? “Two turtledoves….” We sing about them every year, yet their entire role in the account was to die. Speaking of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the partridge in a pear tree is, I’m told, a veiled reference to Christ on the cross.
Here we come to the point. Christmas is not about the sweet little baby in the manger. It’s about that same baby, grown into a man, being nailed to a cross. Isaiah 53 talks about how he has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Not just our sins but also our griefs. How is this possible?
I have a guess. The same Jesus who died for our griefs, because he was fully man, also rose and conquered death, because he was fully God. Yet, being still fully man, he not only demonstrates that it is possible for a man to conquer death, he provides the way for those who die in him to be confident that they, too, will have the same.
So remember, the first empty grave is only the first grave to empty, for on the last day all graves will be empty—those of all whom we mourn at Christmas who have died under the covering protection of the Risen One.
A new life is yours, because this death — and your own, when it comes — is only temporary. source