Dec 23 – The Key
Do not be afraid… I have the keys of Death and of Hades
The end of our Advent journey leaves us in a slightly uncomfortable position, grappling with the realities of the realm of God (heaven) and the realm of the dead (Hades/Hell). This week, we’d much rather be considering only the meek and mild child in the manger. How precious! It is sweet to hold a newborn baby, especially the newborn savior of the world. And yet, many of the readings of this season remind us of the profound (and even terrifying) significance of Jesus’ birth for the earth and the realms above and below us.
Tomorrow night we will be celebrating the birth of the one who tore through the curtain between heaven and earth to come down to us, bringing the embodied presence of God with him. We begin again the story that will hit another breaking point on Easter morning as we declare “he is risen indeed!” And don’t you forget, he brings the dead bodies out of the ground with him.
In our life of faith, we find ourselves in a liminal space. A place between heaven and hell, the powers of God and life on the one hand and sin and death on the other. Sometimes the grave seems more powerful to us: a new diagnosis, a loved one on hospice, a loss to suicide, or a life broken by sin. Other times God’s power is on full display: a crowd gathered to hear the Christmas story, the birth of a new baby, the baptism of someone new to the faith. We find ourselves with feet on solid ground, looking up, hoping to escape the power of what lies below. From John of Patmos we are given assurance: our Lord has the keys to death. Those in captivity to sin will be released! Those in captive to death will emerge victorious. Spoiler alert: in the end, JESUS WINS.
God, with eyes toward heaven, we give thanks for your power at work in our lives and world. Free us from whatever holds us in bondage. Vanquish our eternal foe. Amen.