As we carry the wonder and mystery of Christmas with us into the New Year, we focus on the sacrifice which Jesus made for us through his suffering and death. To focus only on Jesus as a baby is to miss the greatness of his ministry and sacrificial death. The writer to the Hebrews calls Jesus “the pioneer of salvation” which was realized through his suffering and death. He became “perfect” through his suffering, the writer of Hebrews declares. His suffering blazed the trail to salvation for others, because he was the “unblemished” or sinless sacrifice who was designated for this purpose throughout eternity. It was through his suffering that Jesus fully identified with humanity. This identity with men and women enabled Jesus to understand and experience the fullness of being human through suffering. This identification with humanity was an assurance that Jesus was sympatric and understanding of the suffering of men and women because he himself had suffered. He fully knows our needs, pains, sufferings, and temptations since he was tested as we are. Having gone through the “valley of the shadow of death,” he identifies with us and can offer support, comfort, guidance and assurance.
None of us escapes all difficulties, disappointments, pain, suffering, grief or death. They are all a part of life. However we can be assured when these trials come that we do not face them alone. Christ is present with us to help us meet whatever difficult time we may encounter. As Christians who have experienced suffering and grief, we can also be vehicles for Christ to help minister to others in times of need. As a pastor, I found that the most helpful person to ask to minister to others during a difficult time in their lives was someone who had a similar experience. They could say to the other person or persons: “I understand what you are going through.” And they could, because they had indeed been there.
Prayer: Oh God, thank you that we do not have to face our burdens alone. Be ever near us in our special times of need. May we also help us bear their burdens. Amen.