Christmas and a Funeral

Posted on Posted in The Bible

These words were spoken at James “Bud” Crider’s memorial service 12/26/2014

Yesterday was Christmas and today, we are gathered for a funeral. It seems the contrast of those two could not be farther apart. Yesterday we gathered with family to eat, open presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Today, we lay our friend, or daddy, or husband or granddad, or great granddad in the ground.

But today, I want to remind us that Christmas and funerals are not far apart because the first Christmas anticipated a funeral, not of James “Bud” Crider, but of the Lord Jesus Himself.

And His funeral, burial, and then resurrection, changes everything about this funeral today. For today we do not mourn over Papaw Bud as those who have no hope, but we mourn as those who do.

In connecting Christmas to Papaw Bud’s funeral, I want to read part Christmas story:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)…” 

Matthew records the news that a virgin will give birth to a son whose identity is Immanuel, which means God with us. Which begs the question: Why did God become and a man and dwell among us? To fully understand why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we must realize there was a curse in Bethlehem.

The curse in Bethlehem was a result of a curse that began in Eden centuries before. Adam and Eve, created to live forever in a perfect relationship with God, chose to be gods and define their own lives apart from God. They rejected His word, disobeyed His commands and sinned against Him.

Through their sin came death and separation from their Creator God. Made to live forever, they would now bury one another back in the ground, and so the curse spread from Eden to Bethlehem.

But there was a declaration in Bethlehem; this baby in a manger shall be named Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins! You see, at the first Christmas, Jesus wasn’t just bringing a holiday to open gifts and eat meals with families. He was bringing us the gift of life through His life.

He was coming to reverse the curse, to forgive our sins, and reconcile us back to God, so that we could once again live with God forever. The Christmas nativity scene was born in a curse to defeat the curse.

And here we are, at a moment when the curse is so vivid, the death of a loved one.

James “Bud” Crider knew and lived in the curse we are talking about.

He was born in 1927 in Marion, Kentucky to Guy and Gracie. Life was hard. He had to quit school after 8th grade to work on the family farm. His life included war. He served in the Army just after the brutality of World War II. At the age of 21, some light shined in the darkness around him and he met and married the girl of his dreams, Katie Railey. They were married for 66 years.

When the curse struck Eden, God told Adam the curse would affect his work. No longer would providing be easy, but now it would be through sweat and toil, with thorns and weeds.

Papaw Bud felt this reality. After he and Katie married they moved to the Detroit area where he worked various jobs to make a better living for them and his soon to be family.

Papaw and Katie were blessed with four children. Their first born, Steve, was born in October of 1948 and Linda was born eighteen months later. Papaw would experience the curse vividly four years later when he and Katie had another daughter, Joyce Ann, who died at birth. After her death, Papaw drove her body from Detroit to Marion to be buried in the same cemetery where he will be buried today. Four years after the death of their baby, light shinned again and another daughter, Doris, was born. After Doris was born, Papaw worked at Ford Motor Co. and was employed there until his retirement.

Papaw was a hard working man and could fix anything! He also enjoyed taking off work to enjoy life. He loved working on and trading cars, collecting knives, and working on his Ford tractor. Papaw loved to show me his tractor and ask me about how my crops were coming.

In 1985 he and Mamaw Katie moved back to Marion. That same year their sixth of seven grandchildren was born, (my wife, Katie, who I am pretty fond of.)

Papaw was a true family man. After Bud and Katie moved back to Kentucky they were able to spend more time with family and especially their grandchildren. Bud very often became an unpaid taxi driver for his grandchildren and he and Katie jointly babysat. They both played a big part in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

Living and experiencing the curse all around him, Papaw soon realized the curse was not just something out there, but something in here, in his very heart. He knew he was a sinner in need of a Savior. And that knowledge led him to the One who lived and died to conquer his sin and give him new life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Papaw not only knew that Jesus was his Savior who had saved him from his sins, he also understood there was a new Kingdom being built on this planet; a Kingdom of light that was expelling the darkness. He knew that the manifestation of that Kingdom was the local church.

And he made sure his family experienced the body of Christ and learned about His Kingdom through Sunday school and church. There was never an excuse good enough to miss church. Papaw not only went to church, he believed he was part of the church, so he participated and served.

He served by being a greeter at his churches in Michigan and in Marion. He liked being the first person to see people as they came in the church doors and to make sure they received a church bulletin. He liked to joke and kid around with the people at the church and especially with the children.

At the end of his life, the curse caught up to Papaw’s body and mind, and in 2009 he went to live in a nursing home. A few years later, unfortunately, his wife, Mamaw Katie was admitted to the same nursing home. But, in God’s providence, they were together again.

And then Tuesday morning, it seemed the curse finally claimed full victory over Papaw’s life, and today we will put Papaw back in the ground from which he came. But things aren’t always as they seem or appear.

For we are not putting Papaw in the ground as defeated by the curse of sin and death. Instead, we are putting Papaw in the ground as one who has defeated the curse through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You see Papaw knew he deserved to die, but also knew Jesus didn’t. And Papaw knew the only way he would pass through death and live with God forever, was to trust the One who lived a perfect life for him, soaked up God’s wrath on the cross to forgive him, and then rose again from the grave to justify him. Papaw trusted in the Lord Jesus, and because he did we have no reason to mourn without hope today.

Because Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”   And to that Papaw said, “Yes” and “Amen”.

I want to close today by reading a Christmas Hymn by Isaac Watts, Joy to the World:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;

Let earth receive her king;

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing,

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

He rules the world with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of his righteousness,

And wonders of his love,

Although we sing this song in celebration of Christmas, Watts did not write this song about Christmas when Jesus came in a manger, but rather about his second coming as the conquering king.

So today, one day after the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, we have gathered for a funeral. And today, we will bury our Papaw Bud in the ground in proclamation of why Christmas matters so much, for Jesus has saved Papaw Bud from his sins.

And in doing so, we look forward to the day when true joy will find the earth, the second coming of King Jesus. And on that day, Papaw Bud, and all the saints in Christ will burst out of graves in victory over sin and death, to a resurrection of life forever with King Jesus.

For on that day, His blessings will truly flow as far as the curse is found, and we will all join with Papaw and sing the glories of his righteousness, and the wonders of his love.