1 Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV)
The second I started singing "O, come, O come, Emmanuel," I knew that I was in trouble. It was going to be difficult, of course, but this soon? The first hymn of the first Sunday in Advent, 2015, and already I was crying. How was I, a widow of only five months, supposed to get through the Christmas season without my beloved companion?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)
Paul has the answer: the church. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, a family. Very few blood-related families have within their circle every experience of life, joyful or sorrowful. But the church family does. There are mothers, fathers, single people, those who have struggled with every temptation, those who have lost husbands, wives, and children. No matter what our struggle, there is someone in the church who has gone through what we are going through.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a – Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. (ESV)
So I talked to a few of the widowed church people. All I had to say was, "How do you get through Christmas?" and the light of recognition lit up every face. Advice varied.
"Do something different instead of trying to recreate the usual traditions."
"Surround yourself with people and activity."
"Don't force yourself to participate in everything."
"Don't pretend to be cheerful when you're not."
"Cry whenever you need to."
Some of the advice I took, and some I didn't. But the point was not so much what was said as the outpouring of understanding and love that came from each person. Whichever advice I followed, I knew that I was not alone.
When we have received help and blessing, we are able to pass it on to others, so that they will not be alone. This is how the church is strengthened.
Prayer: Father God, Helper of the helpless, keep us alert to those who need encouragement. May our words and deeds be rays of light to shine on hearts in sorrow and darkness. Whether we give or receive the blessings of community, may Your church be strengthened in its mission to show Christ to the world. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Hail To The Lord's Anointed" (Lyrics)