I write this final blog of Advent 2020 to a select group of people… men, women, and children who are grieving. Grief and Christmas do not really belong together. Christmas should be a time of joy, of celebration, of family gatherings and festivities around the Christmas tree.
Yet for many it will not be that. This year, our nation mourns the hundreds of thousands of dead who passed away from Covid or a Covid related illness. The world at large mourns many others. But more specifically, maybe you buried a loved one in the past weeks or months. The grief is still fresh. The memories bring a flood of tears to your eyes.
This is my fourth Christmas without my wife by my side. I still don’t know what to do on Christmas. I can get lost in my children and my granddarlin’s joy which helps enormously. Yet, there is still much I must do alone.
The first Christmas was hardest, no doubt. Pam’s death had just happened in August, and I was still in the early stages of processing her death and my father-in-law’s death which happened not quite two months prior.
Since that time, I have grieved the death of my mother and last year, one like a mother to me in my mother-in-law, Shirley. Each death had its own particular pain, and each piles on top of the other in seasons like Christmas.
This season, our family passes through our first Christmas without “Mamaw.” It hasn’t “felt” like Christmas for several years now, meaning it doesn’t feel like Christmas used to feel. The old homes we visited have been sold and life goes on. We can’t go backward.
But you press through it. I promise you, grieving friend, next year will be easier. And the following easier than that. As I learned personally, grief is not just something you “get through” or “get over” like a disease. It is a condition that changes your heart, and you learn to live not just with the pain, but with the fresh grace God gives us to bear it. We press on.
The added dimension is this. I have learned to look for something from Christmas that goes beyond sentimentalism, as important as that is. I have learned to live with the reason the first people to receive the message that a Savior was born experienced: A joy that comes from looking again at Jesus, the reason for the season. Beholding Him afresh.
And this Christmas, I wish for you the same “great joy!”
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” (Luke 2:10-14 ESV)