“This Christmas story. It begins in the beginning, this love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning…God in three persons, uncontainable affection, knelt down and kissed warm life into you with the breath of His love.” ~ Ann Voskamp 1
Four months ago, the news of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide sent chills down the spine of nearly every American and put a nation in mourning. Bloggers, news reporters, and anyone with a social media account blurted out disbelief and a host of advice ranging from excellent exhortations to odd ideas. Debates raged over whether suicide is a selfish choice or the product of a disease that attacks without discrimination, much like cancer.
But I didn’t do anything. I didn’t post a Facebook status or write a blog or comment on an article. I couldn’t. I tried. I really did. I typed out a response time and time again, and then hit the backspace button through tear-filled eyes.
What it is that makes us pause and ponder and post and plead for raised awareness about a killer called suicide? What is it about this “disease” or this “choice” – which ever you believe – that causes us to shudder and speak out and sound an alarm?
Could it be because we, too, have stumbled blindly into the flames of falleness and felt the heat of Satan’s lies searing the fingerprint of God’s love right off our souls? People claim they don’t understand suicide, but the problem is that they do. The lie Satan whispers is that we can become like God, but all our pride does is prove that all we can do is fail. And we survey the devastation done by the deceit and the disobedience and the defiance and we wonder if we could ever get to the point of suicide ourselves.
December 14th, 2001 was the first time I ever wondered about myself. This year the 14th was a Sunday – yesterday. Thirteen years ago it was a Friday. It was the day my father lost his battle with depression and that same bullet that took his life shattered my daddy’s-girl heart.
I was 23 when he died and for the next six years I awakened each morning asking: Could I – would I – ever?
For six years I walked a trail of terror, and in the years since, I’ve sat beside others as their bodies shook with anxiety, their entire being wracked with panic and depression. And I knew what they were thinking: Could I – would I – ever?
But what I discovered on that seventh year, the year of freedom from debt and bondage, is that this Christmas story isn’t simply about a Baby born. The triune God had a three-fold plan, and this Christmas story is the most powerful weapon against suicide. It began before the beginning of time, but not before the concept of you, and the reason for the season is redemption.
Christmas doesn’t find its start in Matthew 1:18. It finds its start in John 3:16, its climax in Matthew 28:6, and its culmination in Revelation 21:3 & 4. The Creator created a friend who became an enemy and so the Creator became one of the created. The enemy nailed the Creator to a tree and the Creator bled out oceans of grace. The created sealed the tomb but the Creator became life – for the created. Christ’s birth, death, life – the triune God’s three-fold plan. It’s this Christmas story. It’s the story of redemption.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word redeem, in part, as “to buy back; to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to extricate from or help to overcome something; to release from blame or debt; repair, restore; to make good; to atone for.”
The King James Bible calls it propitiation, and it’s one of the most beautiful words in the Greek Word: hilasmos, meaning “an offering to appease an angry, offended party”. It’s only used twice in the New Testament, “both of Christ’s atoning blood that appeases God’s wrath on all confessed sin”.2
Because of Jesus’ birth, we have hope. Because of His death, we have forgiveness. Because of His resurrection, we have redemption. Because of all three, we have eternal life.
The appeal of suicide isn’t that death is enticing, but that life is excruciating. But “ache is not the last word for those who believe God. Jesus is.”3 Because of this Christmas story, a weary world rejoices.
“The earth and all its residents no longer have to be weary. They no longer have to try. The Savior is born.
The holiest of nights has already happened, and the reason for rejoicing is upon us! Christ was born! His holy life, the shedding of his blood, and His powerful resurrection, are the only real reasons to rejoice. “4
This is the Christmas story.
“In the nativity according to Luke,” Ann Voskamp writes, “the star hangs high, victorious on a silent night, a holy night…
This night a battle has been waged and won for you…
This is the truest love story of history …this one has its beginning before the beginning of time…
Your rescue is here…you can breathe.”5
In His name and for His glory,
- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, pg 12
- biblehub.com, HELPS Word-studies, Greek
- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, pg 51
- Hosanna Barton, The Holiest of Nights
- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, pg 245