Christmas is for Those Who Grieve
By Sharon W. Betters
For our December In His Grip devotions, my wife Sharon, will encourage you with some of her thoughts about Christmas.
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,
It's the Hap-happiest season of all...
when it's not.
Harry Connick Jr.'s merry lyrics sharply contrasted with the sad tears and unending ache in my chest that accompanied me every minute of every day in the days leading up to our first Christmas without our sweet youngest child, Mark. Christmas was on our minds even the night of his death, on our way home from the hospital that hot July night when Chuck grabbed my hand and whispered, "Christmas, what will we do about Christmas?"
Twenty years later, I experience joy in this "most wonderful time of the year" but not because it's the hap-happiest season of all — because it's not. About two weeks before Thanksgiving I begin to feel disorganized, disconnected and emotionally edgy. Responding to irritations without irritation is more difficult. Anger and impatience vie for top billing in situations that don't normally rattle me. And every year Chuck reminds me that my root problem is grief. I miss Mark, and I think about the grief of my sister and her family as they continue to search for ways to create joy when an empty chair reminds them that my brother-in-law is gone. My brother and his family, the family friends whose godly and beautiful matriarch is gone from this earth, and other empty chairs at family gatherings. The warm family feeling template is broken.
This year is the first Christmas without any of our parents, a stark reminder of our own mortality. Each year brings more losses.
The freight train of sorrow still surprises me with its ferocity and power.
One reason the holiday season is so difficult for grieving Americans is because marketing gurus tap deep into our core need for community and family. The most effective ads are those that imply healthy, conflict free relationships. Thanksgiving and Christmas are ready made opportunities for stirring up our God-given hunger for peace and whole families.
Divorce, broken relationships, childlessness, loss of a loved one, financial disaster, singleness, conflict-filled marriage - none of these fit the "hap- happiest time of the year" template so all of those ads magnify the holes in our own broken lives.
Anticipation of our first Christmas without Mark magnified his absence. Like so many broken people, I wanted to jump from November 1 to mid-January. Yet, somehow I knew that this first Christmas without Mark was the most important Christmas of my life. Such truth angered me yet also drew me to use what little energy I had to search for the "riches stored in secret places" that might help me experience Christmas in a life-transforming way.
Before you give in to that desire to skip Christmas, understand that Christmas is for those who mourn, for those who grieve.
Christmas is for those of us who mourn and grieve because Jesus conquered the very things that create such sorrow in our hearts. Ironically, when viewed through a grid of pain, the Christmas story can cultivate and nurture seeds of hope and redemption that were planted on that first Christmas. The darkness and blood and death that surrounded the birth of Jesus can serve to make His light even brighter to those who are desperately seeking their way on this black pathway of grief.
Please don't discount this great truth as a meaningless cliché. Soaking in this truth was the only pathway to moments of grief relief for me.
Grief Relief - is that an empty promise? Depends on how you define relief. Every hard place in my life is an opportunity to offer help and hope to those who are coming behind me. Between now and Christmas I'll share some "grief relief" moments, both practical and spiritual, that helped turn my heart toward Jesus when every breath was an effort.
In His Grip,
Sharon W. Betters
Executive Director, MARKINC Ministries
MARKINC Ministries is committed to leaning into the pain of life experiences that often go unnoticed by the church. The Learning to See When the Lights Go Out audio library addresses life's darkest circumstances that are difficult to discuss yet we are called on to help one another walk by faith, even when darkness falls. These are the real-life testimonies of people who have walked through these experiences and have learned to see when the lights went out. Browse the library for free downloads on such topics as Drug Addiction, Suicide, Loss of a Loved One, Chronic Illness, Chronic Illness in Young Adults, Widowhood, Divorce, Sexual Abuse and much more. Click here to learn more.
For more information please visit MARKINC Ministries.