Christmas, Love and Grief

“See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”*

The love of God was born with grief as the passage to fulfillment.

The love of God was born knowing grief is the passage to fulfillment.

“Every body else” is celebrating Christmas, but this year more than most, there will be an emptiness present at our table. My dad passed 10 years ago, but he was a stroke victim the last 20 years of his life, so I had time to become accustomed to his absence before it was complete. My older Brother Charlie passed seven years ago in December. We were not super close, but his death hit me the hardest. It was more sudden than my mom’s last month.

I had the privilege of being with my mom for months before, and when she passed. So her going is good in my heart and spirit. But it is the every day ways that we used to relate that are the holes in my life now. And when my grown children and brother join me at my mom’s for Christmas, we will feel the collective absence.

It is bittersweet this year for many reasons. This will also be the last Christmas in mom’s home. Already we are thinking of ways to for us to stay well-connected without her as the central figure uniting us. We will be planning memorial services as well celebrating the coming of our savior. We are saying good-bye to a way of life and venturing into the new and uncharted.

But Jesus knows about it. We are not alone. He came as a baby and lived a human life, full of love, joy, pain and sorrow. He laughed and cried just like us. Then He died a excruciatingly painful and gruesome death. And in His resurrection He opened a way for us to experience life with God every day…even now.

God is actually inviting us to allow Him to fill that vacuum mom and other loses have left in our lives. Those places we are tempted to fill by self-medicating with noise or drink or over-activity or anything to dull the pain.

If only I can look to Jesus, the author and protector of my faith…. When I do that, I do not receive condemnation, I receive His tears of understanding and comfort. If only I can allow Him to touch my broken and empty places…. It can feel like a risky business trying. It goes directly against our human nature to self protect.

But oh the relief when I look up and let Him in to my pain filled places!

When I do, I find myself able to lay down the weight of the pain. I do not let go of the memories, unless He asks me to for my own good. For instance, He as graciously taken the trauma of actual death away from me, but the memories remain without the triggers. This allows me to comfort others as He has comforted me.

In many ways I am looking forward to tears and laughter as we enjoy a Christmas banquet without mom’s physical presence. (It helps knowing she heartily approves!)

Some of us have many, or very fresh, loses to grieve. All of us have losses. I encourage you to find a few minutes of alone time. Ask God for a sanctified imagination, then allow Him to show you where He wants to replace your pain or grief with His loving presence. Pleases let me know how it goes. I am praying for you.

* A verse from “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” by Issac Watts, pub. 1707

Andrea (Madden) Van Boven : I like to think I am a radical lover of Jesus, but I live in a house and pay bills and look like I fit in with respectable society, like most people. What goes on in my head and heart are hopefully the things that betray the look of "normal" that comes at first glance. I hope those things inside of me seep out to actions as well as words of hope and encouragement. I pray that these in turn will lead others to know the loving creator who knows us so intimately that he has a number for every hair on every head.

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