Originally published Dec. 7, 2016.
Wrapping gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, hanging Christmas lights, baking, going to parties, hiding presents, visiting family and friends and attending special church services are images most of us celebrate and treasure during this season of Advent. But for some, those who are grieving and lonely, these activities do not generate anticipation. In fact, the approaching holidays are dreaded as there is little energy for all of the usual excitement and hustle bustle.
There are many forms of grief and not all are related to the loss of a loved family member or a good friend. We grieve the loss of pets, the loss of a job, loss of physical abilities, the brokenness of divorce. We can be similarly affected by the sadness of giving up one’s home to move to another city or to an assisted living facility. And many of us can be sorrowful over the natural disasters that have taken the lives of many. For some, the current divisive political scene in this country may have caused fears and a feeling of being unsettled.
For persons affected by these events, the thought of smiling and pretending to be joyful during Christmas may be more than they can muster. Retreating may be the option that many take in order to survive. Yet it is in acknowledging our losses and admitting to the pain that allows us to proceed on the journey to self-growth and healing.
If you find yourself in this situation or know someone who is, there are resources to draw upon. First of all, Scripture is full of reassurances in difficult times. I think about how many times Jesus offered encouragement to those in distress. The one Scripture that comes to mind is part of the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5: 3-4).
Some of you may remember a story called the Mustard Seed Christmas. It is a story about a woman who had lost her mother right near Christmastime who found the parable of the mustard seed very comforting. In the parable, God is able to take even the smallest tiny seed of faith and grow it into a kingdom of hope. One morning this lady went to her spice cupboard and found mustard seeds. She took one seed, taped it to a piece of paper and placed the paper on the mantle of her fireplace. It served as a reminder that there is hope and that with God’s help faith can be germinated and light comes out of darkness.
In many communities, churches provide special services at Christmastime. These services are meant to be comforting and give people a chance to participate in a service that is quieter and meditative, while still offering the Advent message of hope. From reading the responses of persons who have attended such services, it is encouraging to know that it helped these persons face the season. In fact, the remembrance helped in the healing process.
I would encourage any person who is grieving any loss this season to take part in a community church service designed just for them. We get over grief by grieving, not by stuffing it away. Services such as these are intended to acknowledge grief and to offer consolation and hope.
If you live in Enumclaw, one such service is the Service of Darkness and Light, offered at Calvary Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Another option is the weekly Holden Evening Prayer, a 30-minute service of quiet, meditative music offered from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays during Advent at Hope Lutheran. The last of these services will be on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Cindy Ehlke writes from Calvary Presbyterian.