Dec. 6, 2011
Everything good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
For some people, Christmas isn’t holly and jolly. Christmas can be an awful reminder of the death of a loved one, a failed marriage, a fractured relationship, unfulfilled dreams.
While many people are excited to decorate their homes, put together the family Christmas letter and wrap presents, others want to skip the holidays altogether. They can’t wait for Jan. 2nd.
I clearly remember Christmas 2000. Not only was the December that southernWisconsinreceived the most snow on record. It was also the first December my husband Rick lived without his oldest son, Nate. Nate was killed in January 2000. As the one year anniversary loomed as well as the holidays, I remember Rick asking if we couldn’t just skip the entire holiday season.
Oh, so easy for a pastor! Never mind one that is going to seminary full-time, serving two small rural churches, having recently moved and trying to care for her grieving husband of just a few months. I’m trying to get ready for our Christmas Open House at the parsonage, unpack the boxes still sitting in the dining room and write final semester papers. And there are the church commitments: organize the church’s “Live Nativity” and Advent and Christmas worship services! I had more energy in those days!
I gently reminded him that Christmas was going to come no matter what. Yes, we could do things different this year. Long-standing traditions would be changed. We made time to go to the remembrance service the funeral home offered for families who had lost loved ones within the last year. When we got home, we carefuly put the snowflake ornament given to us at the service with Nate’s name on it on our own Christmas tree.
No matter what we did, we knew there would be an empty chair at the Vielhuber Christmas celebration. Going to the cemetary and hanging a wreath seemed like not the right kind of gift. But it was the only gift we could give.
Is there something in your life which causes you to want to hit the pause button before Christmas … or want to fast-forward to January? I spoke of our unperfect Christmases in church on Sunday. As I spoke, I knew that many people’s minds were still trying to get their mind around the loss of one of Midland UMC’s own, Danna Dee Turk. Danna Dee was one of Midland’s regular piano players. In fact, I’ve pretty much resigned to the fact that I’ll be playing on Christmas Eve because we haven’t been able to secure someone else to play. Danna Dee was 64-years-old and died completely unexpected in mid-November. While any death within a congregation is a moment for reflection, her death has touched much of the congregation because her fingerprints were all over Midland.
As I spoke about missing loved ones this Christmas, I had a hard time not looking at Louise, Danna Dee’s best friend. Louise was trying to keep a strong smile on her face. But I noticed that she gripped her great-grandaughter a bit stronger as she held the three-month-old baby in her arms. And I saw her husband’s hand gently hold her shoulder. I saw knowing looks between people and hands gently glide into the hand of the person sitting next to him or her.
It’s very difficult to think of these situations as a “good and perfect gift from above.” What we really want to know is, “Why?” I’m not going to begin to answer this for Danna Dee or anyone else. What I can encourage you is this: Jesus is the light of the season, who comes to us from the Father of the heavenly lights. This very same Jesus will be with you this Christmas season. He wants to journey with you through the tough days, the sad days, the disappointing days. Don’t worry. Jesus can handle your emotions.
If the context of this devotion describes you, determine a way to celebrate the missing loved one’s life. Whatever your grief maybe this holiday, plan a way to change up your celebration to allow you to celebrate the Christ child’s birth within your limits. Every year as we decorate our tree, we pause, smile and a tear creeps into Rick’s eye as we hang Nate’s ornament. And this is OK.
For those who might not be faced with this situation this Advent, think of someone who is. Make an extra phone call this week. Invite them for a cup of coffee or to a movie. Do something fun and silly with them for no apparent reason. And remind them that Jesus is the light of the season, the one who journies with them in this season of darkness. May the Christ child bring a little brightness to their days.
PS – If there is someone who you think would enjoy these Advent Devotionals, please pass along the link and encourage them to sign-up for the daily devotional! Happy Advent!