Hope for the Grieving at Christmas

Many households are preoccupied with shopping, extra events and added duties at the Christmas season. But for a segment of our population, the holidays come with mixed emotions. There is a sense of loss. For some of you this is a year of firsts without a loved one. The first birthday, the first trip to the shore or vacation in the mountains; and the first Christmas, without your precious family member or friend. You miss them and wish they were here. They may be gone, but they are not forgotten. God cares for you and wants you to turn to Him.

As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to abolish death for those who put their trust in Him. Jesus said in John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That gives me tremendous hope. But you may come from another faith backgrounds or no faith at all. Regardless of where you are with God, your pain is real and you may have questions of how best to handle it.

What I’d like to share with you today are not original thoughts. They come from Mr. James Miller in his article: “How Will I Get Through the Holidays?” Miller provides some very helpful pieces of advice. He offers 12 and I’d like to highlight just a few as you approach this time of year. For one, he says: “Accept the likelihood of your pain.” To put it in my own words, this Christmas will not be the same as others, nor should it be. Your loss is very real. And to acknowledge such is, in a way, a subtle tribute to your loved one.

Secondly, Miller advises to “turn to others for support.” Other friends and family care about you. They share your pain, to varying degrees. “No man is an island,” as the 16th century English poet John Donne said. We are called to bear one another’s burdens. The company of others can be a great support.

Most of all, God cares about you. Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus experienced the spectrum of human emotion? He knew what it was like to love, to miss and to cry. The shortest verse in the Bible says a lot: “Jesus wept.” This was on the occasion of losing his good friend, Lazarus.

Maybe this Christmas is a time for spiritual renewal. Maybe this year you’re primed for a time of returning to God like you never have before. I have always appreciated the words of Psalm 46:1 and I quote it often to folks in need. “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.” God is not far off. He is near to those who call on Him.

Thirdly, be gentle with yourself. The holidays are a stressful time. It is okay to treat yourself lovingly, at a time when life is hard. Give yourself a lot of latitude.

Lastly, count your blessings. What is there to appreciate this time of year? Grief is also a time to slow down and reflect on those things that you would not normally, given your busy schedule. Being grateful can extinguish feelings of discontent and unhappiness.

Finally, some of you have children at home. They deal with grief in a different way than adults. Operate in a spirit of compassion, knowing that your children and grandchildren grieve, too.

Christ coming to our world was the sign of God’s love. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Christ brought the gospel to this world and His good news is for all those who will trust and repent.  May your grief usher you to Jesus, who is the “Good Shepherd.”

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