1 Corinthians 15:49,51 – And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. (KJV)
We celebrate our birthdays in many ways: we send cards, decorate our homes, give presents, and have parties.
Christmas is a birthday — Christ's birthday — and by far, celebrated in the most varied ways and by the most diverse groups of people. Most of us decorate our homes, trim a tree, put up lights, bake delicious goodies, give gifts, have festive times with family and friends, donate to food banks and toy drives, and volunteer with or for the homeless.
There are those for whom Christmas is a sad time — not one of a celebratory birth. They've lost a loved one, or even a pet, and feel their loss most deeply at this time. Their memories of Christmases together are too painful for them to get through a Christmas alone.
While people around them are happily shopping, smiling, and wishing them "Merry Christmas", they're silently looking forward to the days after Christmas.
Churches, hospices, funeral homes, and other organizations hold special remembrance ceremonies as an opportunity to share with others and honour their grief. Such services may not be for everyone, but they are offered for the benefit of those for whom they are helpful.
Many have shared with me their deep sense of loss at Christmas, and while I cannot know how they feel, I do know the feeling of a first Christmas without a loved one, as well as that of an unexpected passing on a Christmas morning: that of my mum, 25 years ago. Christmas was her favourite time of year. It was from her that I learned the love of giving rather than receiving. It was from her that I learned, very early in my life, the value of volunteering. It was she who gave us our earliest teachings of Jesus. She loved life and her music, and she was the church organist who led us in the choir.
It was because of her deep faith, her love of life, and her passing on her favourite day of the year, the most peaceful day on earth, that I made the choice to celebrate her passing as a gift, as a release from her illness, as a new birth, instead of dreading Christmas morning as a sad remembrance for the rest of my life.
Every passing is unique in its own circumstances and unique to each person affected by it. All persons, especially those who are young, have to be allowed to grieve their loss and be given all the time that they need to work their way through it, with the hope that they will reach a time when they can once again enjoy celebrations, especially the celebration of Christ's birthday.
If in reading this, you know of someone for whom this Christmas is going to be a tough one, gently let them know that you're there for them. Don't be upset if they cancel a plan at the last minute. Offer your help, but don't be put off if they decline. Allow them to get through it in their own way and in their own time. This will be the greatest gift that you can give them.
Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (NIV)
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we pray that those who are grieving during this special time of year will feel Your presence more than ever. May they know that You are with them, guiding them through their grief, into a time when they can once again enjoy birthday celebrations, especially the birthday of Your Son, Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Angels We Have Heard On High" (Lyrics)