Celebrating Christmas in Grief and Loss

Light_at_the_End__Managing_Grief_through_the_HolidaysChristmas without our loved one can feel lonely. That death may have occurred many years ago, but we remember. The first Christmas without our loved one can feel particularly sad. Christmas is the time for family gatherings, feasting, and giving gifts. If you’ve experienced sadness from divorce, death, or ill health, Christmas can cast a dark shadow over the festivities. While others express joy, our response may ring with tinges of sadness.

Ivan Chan, M.A., addresses the sadness we feel by helping us focus on the tiny lights of Christmas shining through our darkest time of the year. He encourages us to use them as symbols to see through our grief to better times. You can read his blog at http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/light-at-the-end-0111125/

Does Faith in God Help?

As we approach Christmas, we may wonder What good does faith in God do? Whether or not we believe, we still feel sad. We sing, attend services, celebrate outwardly, but still hurt. Although impoverished because of our losses, life still goes on. Before we succumb to hopelessness, however, in addition to focusing on lights shining in darkness and imagining life apart from our grief, as suggested by Mr. Chan, we may recall a few details of the original event.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus, her tiny country had fallen on hard times. Alexander The Great had introduced Greek ways (seen as pagan) into the Hebrew heartland. One of his successors (Antiochus Epiphanes IV) destroyed Jerusalem, killed most of the men, and sold the women and children into slavery. He installed a Greek image in the holy Jerusalem Temple, forbad his subjects from sacrifices, feasts, rites and worship. An officer forcing a Jew to sacrifice to Zeus in the Temple, triggered a rebellion. Although the Jewish leaders cleansed the Temple in response (celebrated each Hanukkah), the rebellion failed. The census ordered by Caesar Agustus reminds us of tiny Judah’s occupation by the Romans. Visualize foreign solders marching up and down your streets, taxing (through Jewish publicans), manhandling citizens, and ridiculing your customs. The hated half-Jewish king Herod served as Rome’s surrogate. For Jewish people who loved and worshipped their God, the future looked bleak.

Hope in the First Christmas

Yet that first Christmas brought a message of hope to people grieving for their nation. “For unto us this day in the city of David is born a Savior, Christ the Lord” says Luke. Each year Christmas remains one of our key moments of hope. If you’ve lost a loved one, or feel discouraged by conditions in our country or world, or grieve for something or someone few can understand, I encourage you to focus on the lights around you each night and the light of a life that changed hearts to such an extent, he changed the course of history.

What loss have you experienced this past year? What grief do you still carry into this season? Where do you find hope this Christmas?


About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy (gordongrose.com) blog to learn more. TragedyTransformed.com provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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