How to Grieve and Celebrate Christmas
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort...
2 Corinthians 1:3
The lure of the Christmas season has been built layer upon layer with tradition and fantasy until is nearly breaking with the weight of our expectation. In our heads we carry the picture perfect holiday. Visions of laughter and joy sparkle like glittery ornaments on our tree.
With rose-colored glasses we sometimes visualize perfect family times as if we live in the midst of a Christmas card photo.
When you don’t feel like celebrating.
When you’re filled up with grief, the blare of holiday cheer scraps the tender skin of our hearts. The juxtaposition of merry and bright slams into the ache of loss.
Is there a place for mourning in the merry making that has become synonymous with Christmas?
Grief and hardship do not take a break for Christmas. Surrounded by those who we think have no problems, picture-perfect moments trick us into feeling there is no place for grieving in the happy.
The year my father died…
In 2005 my dad died on December 5 after a battle with leukemia and a host of other issues. I remember dreading that Christmas as we traveled to a funeral. Can we be truly grateful for the birth of Christ in the face of the death of a loved one or the loss of a dream?
My children were young, not understanding the reality of death and excited for Christmas. I felt ill prepared to be the parent that Christmas. My Christmas shopping was half done and the decorations were in boxes. Christmas cards sat in a stack on the table waiting for me to have the strength to wish others a merry Christmas and at the same time inform them of my father’s death.
In the midst of family issues and relational differences, we came together and celebrated the value of an extraordinary man’s life. In the beauty of life and the pain grief, the worth and meaning of his life resounded strong.
Life is like that. Reality and family are like that. And Christmas is sometimes like that. It is real and it is good, even in the hard. Truth overcomes as help for our greatest need is born in a stable.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
In the face of fear there is joy, in the midst of darkness there is light for God has given us a Savior. On hillsides cold and dark with our loss, angels sing because Christ has come.
Taken by surprise.
The Christmas my Dad died took me by surprise. Secretly, I had been holding by breath, dreading the holiday in the shadow of loss. Yet, in our grief and in the broken road traveled, the surface of expectation was torn aside.
The gifts God unwrapped in me where the treasures of appreciation and acceptance as I cherished reality rather than expectation.
That Christmas, grief cut through the old habits. We hugged a little tighter, loved a little freer, and gazed a little longer in appreciation of one another, despite all the hard things. Laughter and tears, joy and heartache mingled as God gave comfort through the true appreciation of the gift of love.
For me, as mother and daughter, wife and sister, I experienced a deeper and different celebration. Gone was the glitz, and I found myself treasuring the gift of salvation and love of family above the festivity of tradition.
In our grief, God gave us more, not less.
We received strength to hold it all in our hearts–grief and joy, love and loss, shimmering with the holiness of grace.
My friend, if you are weary and worn with the burden of loss… If the thought of one more step is too much…reach out for God’s hand. Open your heart before Him, for He is strong enough to handle every bit of our grief. God wants to exchange our pain for joy in His timing. It is okay to go through the process of grief, even in the midst of the joy of celebration.
What if we release our expectations and simply live fully in the moment. Accept the imperfect and cherish the real? Making the most of the good and the least of the hard?
Be tender with yourself and with others, asking God to give you the grace you need for each moment.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Thanks for reading to the end. I’m sorry about the length of this post, but somethings you simply cannot say in 500 words. Some stories cannot be told in a paragraph, and some truths need more space.
To the one who is grieving this Christmas, may you be blessed with the comfort of God’s presence this Christmas.