Three Funerals and a Birthday

Out of the depths of silent night…

Our Advent season started off with three funerals, and Christmas dawns with news of yet two more deaths. As Americans, we spend much of our life ignoring the fact that death will surely come for us all at one time or another. And at the Christmas season especially, such stark reminders of our mortality (barring Dickens, perhaps) are generally shunned.

And yet, what is more fitting than death to remind us of why we even celebrate Christmas? Two thousand years ago a baby was born. We still celebrate his birthday today. Why? Because death is a universal problem. That baby–Immanuel–God with Us–Jesus, came to solve our problem. Through his life, death, burial, and resurrection Jesus made it so that death does not need to be the end. Death has no more power over those whose faith is in Christ. Jesus is the victor. For his people, the sting of death is gone.

A Savior born, a mother’s sigh….

While we grieved the deaths, the funerals themselves were also profoundly comforting. No, our lives are not made easy because we trust in Christ. But in his wisdom God has provided for us, even (and especially) in the midst of our grief. In his book “Knowing God” J.I. Packer said that we turn to God because through God’s wisdom we are made ”less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in this fallen world is full.” Even in pain our lives are made good.

We could not help but reflect on how different these funerals for believers were from those of unbelievers–and drastically different than those of the Kwakum. The Kwakum have funerals with very strict, complex funeral rites where grief is accompanied by despair. Among other things, they are always worried that beyond the physical cause of death, there is a nefarious spiritual cause. Perhaps someone put a curse on the one who died. Perhaps one of the spirits was angry with him. Weeping and wailing overtake them. For the welfare of not only the one who died, but also the entire village, the family must perform the correct ceremonies. Even after the funeral, there are rituals and customs, including a ceremony one year later to make sure that the spirit of the deceased leaves the village and does not bring harm to the people.

The darkness trembled at his star….

Here again, David and I remember the reason that we long to move into full-time ministry with the Kwakum. We yearn for the day that the Hope of the Gospel is heard at Kwakum funerals. Can you imagine the relief of the mother who understands that the welfare of her dead baby doesn’t depend on what she has done..what she will do…on some ancient ritual, but instead on what God has already done? We pray for the day that the Kwakum can also know the comfort of a goodbye that is not forever, but only for a season.

The light is beginning to shine in Kwakum villages as bit-by-bit verses and stories are translated. But what joy it will be to our hearts when the Kwakum as a whole can understand that long ago, in the city of Bethlehem a Savior was born unto THEM! That savior is Christ the Lord. And he is Life, Light, the only HOPE of all men.

A beam of hope for troubled hearts….

Our only Hope. Your only Hope. The only Hope for the Kwakum.

We pray that this same Hope shines bright in your hearts this Christmas and always.

Much love, The Ernsts Dave and Amanda, Johnathan, Josef, Mei and Jakob

P.S. To discover three ways you can help bring the hope of Christmas to the Kwakum, go here.

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