My Sunday school class has been studying Ecclesiastes, an Old Testament book supposedly written by King Soloman 2,500 years ago.
“Meaningless, meaningless. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless,” mourns the king.
This is a man who had everything: power, riches, palaces, hundreds of wives and concubines, the best wine and food. He ruled the world. Yet, in the end, he found everything meaningless.
“What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind. I have seen all the things done under the sun. All of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Interestingly enough, the king never waivered in his belief in God, as many do today. He just didn’t see how anything done by man could ever be significant.
It reminds me of the dozens of stories of lottery winners finding their new-found riches not only not bringing joy, but creating new miseries.
So what are we to make of Ecclesiastes? Is life really utterly meaningless?
Not at all. Life is full of meaning. Incredibly important meaning. Meaning beyond our ability to comprehend. And that is the significance of Christmas.
King Solomon lived before the rest of the story came to fruition. When God became man on Christmas Day, everything changed. The meaninglessness vanished and man began to understand. That is the gift of Christmas, the greatest gift of all.
The Old Testament says little about the afterlife. Before Christ, the Jews were split on the topic. The Pharisees believed in an afterlife. The Sadducees did not.
Jesus Christ resolved that debate, not only speaking plainly about heaven, but then showing the world through his resurrection that death is not the end, but the beginning. Life is not meaningless. It is a stepping stone to a whole new level, the magnitude of which our limited brains cannot grasp.
Being created in the image of God, we want answers. We want knowledge. How does it work? What is heaven really like?
Even if Jesus had given more details, we wouldn’t have been able to comprehend. An ant cannot comprehend the life of a human. We do know this: We have nothing to fear. It’s going to be more wonderful than we can ever imagine. Our bodies will be resurrected and perfected. We will be reunited with all those who we have lost.
Death has no mercy and the Northside has suffered greatly over the past few months. I have been to far more funerals than I would prefer. Some were natural. Others profoundly tragic.
For the many non-Christians who may be reading this, my apologies. This is a Christmas column. I’m sure your beliefs and religions offer support that I do not understand. But I am so grateful that Christians have the words of Jesus to comfort them in their times of loss. I cannot imagine living without it.
Imagine choosing between two doors. Behind one door is a random meaningless existence. Behind another door is 3,000 years of history and faith, culminating in a loving God whose promises can wipe away the pain of death. Why choose the former?
Christianity is booming in the biggest country in the world, China. They have gone so long with the human ideology of communism, they are desperate for the word of God. Despite repression, hundreds of millions are turning to Christ.
Meanwhile, here in America, with churches on every corner, Christianity is faltering. Studies show a significant decline in church attendance and belief over the last 10 years. How sad.
As a minister once preached, if Christians actually practiced what they preached, the whole world would be converted in a decade. When Christianity falters, it is because churches are straying from the radical nature of Christianity and embracing a watered-down, social version. That won’t do.
I started out as a social Christian, going to church basically to keep peace with my wife. It was only gradually that I realized the untenable nature of my humanistic world view. I realized there was a God and it was not me. The first step was going to church.
Saddest of all is the use of science to debunk Christianity, as though man could dethrone God by learning more about His creation. Jesus spoke in parables because the details were beyond our imagination. We use the same technique when we speak to our children. The creation timeline in Genesis is a parable, one that is proving to match our scientific understanding. Dinosaurs do not disprove God.
Our universe is fine-tuned to a precision beyond our ability to measure. A trillion variables had to be perfectly aligned for the earth to exist. Not to even mention our physical bodies. To attribute this to random chance is not science or philosophy. It is denial.
Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. This is why we celebrate Christmas. What a gift!
Wyatt Emmerich is publisher of The Northside Sun in Jackson and owner of Emmerich Newspapers.