This week, with the new year just around the corner, I was working on streamlining “Goals for 2012” when three prominent deaths (The Good, the Bad, and the Misguided) jolted my focus onto something further downfield. Playwright and former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel (The Good) left a heroic legacy of “Living in Truth”: he was a brave dissident during the Cold War when his country endured Soviet domination. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il (The Bad) perished like a pre-Christmas Scrooge—to the relief and rejoicing of millions in Asia and around the world. Can you imagine nearly an entire planet cheering your death?
And Christopher Hitchens (The Misguided)—eloquent (to put it mildly) writer for Vanity Fair and an unusual amalgam of liberal and conservative views—passed from a battle with esophageal cancer. Hitchens was particularly famous for both penetrating and cheeky cultural and political analysis, his vehement opposition to Islamic fascism, and a sardonic atheism.
I met Hitchens once on an airplane and briefly discussed foreign affairs (I ran out of things to say quickly) and my faith, which he accepted for that moment. I liked him, and it saddens me that anyone can journey so thoughtfully through life and yet miss the greater point: this is only the beginning. As 1 Corinthians 15 says, we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. We who believe will start lives that never end.
The last five minutes of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast capture that miracle–how I imagine we will feel on that day, goose bumps, tears, and all: when the beast comes back to life, transformed into a prince, and sees everyone who was cursed set free to be people again, he says with overwhelming astonishment and gratitude, “LOOK AT US!”
We are a people celebrating the birth of Jesus for many reasons. The most important reason is the defeat of Death. The greatest Christmas miracle, the greatest Christmas morning, will be the one on which we will awaken to find the spell of death broken forever, and ourselves with our Father in His house of many, many rooms.