“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” … “It’s the Best Time of the Year” … “Joy to the World” … “The Weary World Rejoices as Yonder Breaks a New and Glorious Morn” …
Words that bring a smile to our faces and renew the hope in our hearts…that is, unless you are mired in a season of grief. And even though Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is a time and a season under heaven for everything including a time to grieve and a time to rejoice, there seems to be little room in the inn for those with heavily laden and sorrowful hearts. I know. I have been that person. My father died of cancer on December 22 when I was eight years old and he was a young man of thirty-three. We buried him two days later in a tiny Southern town with full military honors on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was the hardest day of my life. Growing up, my family tried everything we could to make our lives merry and our hearts and faces joyful as Christmas rolled around, but the grief was always there, hidden under the surface. I wish we had talked about it more and had given ourselves permission to let some of the sadness we were all feeling be expressed in some small, but significant way. Now I hang a special ornament on my tree in honor of my father, a way of remembering and acknowledging that I will always carry him in my heart.
You might live next to a neighbor who has experienced a life-changing loss this year, have a friend whose parent passed away in 2019, or know someone who is still deeply grieving the loss of a loved one. Christmas is without a doubt a time of promise and hope when much of the world rejoices, but giving that grieving person an opportunity to talk about the empty seat at their table or the empty place in their hearts might be a great gift to them. We are taught in Scripture that bearing one another’s burdens is the way that we fulfill the law of Christ, and the law of Christ is love. Look for those who are hurting and find a way to extend to them the comfort of Christ. He is himself a man of sorrows who was not unacquainted with grief. And although he truly understood what it was and is to experience great loss and sorrow, he left us a glorious promise of that which is to come:
Revelation 21:2-5 “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Look for ways to give special consideration, care, and love to those who are experiencing sorrow in this season of great joy. Acknowledging their loss may be a sweet gift that will bring the peace of Christ to their hearts.
Here’s to the hope of Christmas.
May it reign forever in our hearts.
God with us.
The giver of all comfort and joy.