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No Christmas without Easter

christmas cross 400CFRegular columnist John Myhill reminds us that the celebration of Christ’s birth is only part of the story of salvation.

“this birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death” Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot.
I recently experienced severe pain.  It came suddenly and took away the possibility of all action, all thought of anything beyond the pain. Nothing reduced it. I was terrified it would increase.  I was convinced I was going to die.  Death began to feel like a good alternative.   It lasted for three agonising hours and then passed as suddenly as it had come.
I have known pain before of similar force, but never for so long without variation, without reduction by pain killers, without medical intervention.  Never be a Job’s comforter to those in pain.
Prayer was my first response, yet by the time it ceased I had long given up hope.  My faith was feeble.
During the pain, I remembered those previous experiences of suffering. Of course, I still fear the return of that pain, but within hours I became unable to remember what it had really been like.  Could any of us function, day by day, if we could really hold in our heads, the memory of the pain of child birth, of severe physical injury, of bodily agony?
Yet pain is a messenger: “Do not return to Herod” (Matthew 2:12), “escape to Egypt” (Matthew 2:13) and avoid the massacre of the innocents; just as joy is a messenger: “Blessed art thou amongst women” (Luke 1:42), “this is my son in whom I am well pleased”(Matthew 3:17).
Just as we should expect to feel the extreme ecstasy of God’s love flowing into us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4); so we should recognise the rap of his rod (Proverbs 13:24 & Psalm 23), reminding us that true comfort is not material pleasure, but knowing that we do His will (Saint Ignatius), for His peace is not the absence of conflict, but a sword (Matthew 10:34) that provides discernment, wisdom, love.
Eliot is reminding us that we are all born to die, but Jesus was born that we might overcome death; and He did this through His own pain and death.  There is no Christmas without Easter.  No eternal life without the sacrifice of the lamb.
Personally, I know I was becoming lost in the pleasures of retirement, when I was supposed to be sharing the Gospel.  I needed a reminder that time is short, and every moment a precious opportunity for good.
But what has your pain been telling You?


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JohnMyhill450John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/

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