My cousin posted this picture on Facebook the other day. For some reason it really caught my attention. Usually I see things like this and scroll right past. This one made me stop. I have gone back to it a number of times, trying to figure out why.
There is something simple and beautiful about this picture. Maybe it tugs at my Catholic roots and reminds me of all those burning red candles we used to light. I know it made me stop and think about our parents, especially the sisters through whom we are tied. Or maybe the husbands we lost too early and miss this time of year. It brought up sadness and peace at the same time.
This time of year tends to bring to mind those who are gone. If we are not careful we can find ourselves in a sea of sadness. This picture reminds me that as a believer in Jesus Christ I can be sad for me and feel joy for them. There is an empty spot in my life, but as a Christian I believe in life eternal and know that we will one day be united. I trust that God has welcomed them to a place I can only begin to imagine and that the angels sang when they came home.
If you are missing a loved one this Christmas season and it is bringing you great sadness, I encourage you to talk to someone and share your sorrow. Share what you are thinking with someone who will listen with kindness and encourage you to find joy in the days you shared. Light a candle if it helps. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of time together. And ask that God would fill the empty spot in your life with joy.
One way to fill that hole is in service to others. This is a great time to take the love you remember and pass it on to those in need. Remember that little thing Jesus said about when we take care of others in need, we take care of him. And through your acts of giving, others might see that glimmer of Jesus in you and find peace and comfort in the midst of their bad day. I promise that you too will be blessed and when you think of this picture, you too will find a way to smile.
So thank you, dear cousin, for the tears and the smile. Thank you for the reminder that Christmas is about remembering our loved ones and honoring them in the way we live today.
Like many of you I am in the midst of pre-Christmas activities—shopping, decorating, and planning for the big day. This past week we brought most of the decorations out of storage and began to unpack and set up the tree and lights. Well, the tree is up and a string of lights are on the balcony now. And there is stuff everywhere waiting for its special place in the house. And even though my daughter is an adult now, there is still a child-like excitement and joy in all the chaos.
Our boxes of decorations are memories of Christmases past, packed away for a year. They are the pieces of our past that have been trapped in boxes waiting to explode on us at just the right time. There are the hand-made decorations from my daughter that make me smile and think what a happy little girl she was. There are the decorations from my parents that I have held onto for years. They remind me of special mornings with my brother and sister that I will never have again. There is a special little pillow my sister made with my husband’s name on it that keeps him a part of our Christmas every year. There is the special White House ornament my dear friend gave me and I cherish that friendship every time I open the box. There are the decorations my husband bought when we were at Disney that he was so excited to find. The child in him came out as he and my daughter picked out their treasures for the next tree. There are special ornaments my father brought me from Israel—one of the few gifts he ever gave me.
These are the Christmas reflections of our past. Some sweet; some tempered with sadness. Each box we open reminds us of times past; and yet those memories are made new and fresh as we add to them each year. We are in a new home this year and I won’t have room for everything I usually set out. The pieces we pick will have unique meaning to us. They will connect this place we are passing through to our family and friends, some now gone.
In the moments of our reflections, let us stop and reflect on why we are preparing for this special day in December. A new family was created that day with the birth of an extraordinary baby. This baby would change the lives of his parents and those of the world. This family would celebrate his birth each year, just as we do, and build memories on memories. One day this child would die for his family and for the people he so loved. His family and friends would be left with a different memory. Each day, each year, they would remember the tremendous love he had for them and they would speak of passing that love on to others. They would come to share the memory over and over, hoping that we would never forget.
In the middle of my Christmas shuffle, I want to remember not just my friends and family. I want to remember the man whose life I celebrate. I want to remember that Jesus was born and that he is coming back one day. I want to remember that he is the most important thing to celebrate. And the best gift I can give another is to share the story of what he has done in my life. I hope you will see him in the pages I write and I hope you will find him in the boxes you open this Christmas.
“She will give birth to a son and he will be called Immanuel (meaning God is with us).” (Matthew 1:23,New Living Translation)