Christmas is the gift of life and joy in Christ, the light of the world. Each Christmas light is a brilliant celebration of God's love: "To you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is the messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:11 NRSV)
The festival of Christmas celebrates our traditions, the season and the day. When we gather at the holidays with family, or others we choose as family, we realize that the festival of Christmas will never be the same without our loved one.
Yet what our heart really seeks within the festival, especially when we grieve, is the deeper experience of Christmas. As the gift of God's love reaches into our hearts with its mystery and wonder, we are certain of life beyond death. The experience of Christmas assures us of God's comfort and abiding presence to us in Christ.
Christmas comes to us in small, private moments when our heart is strangely touched by joy. Even as we grieve during the holidays, the moment of Christmas can surprise us and take our breath away with its life-renewing peace. In Emmanuel, we know that God is with us at Christmas and always:
- To comfort us.
- To redeem us.
- To restore us.
- To give us peace.
- To hold us in the communion of saints with the one we have loved and lost.
The experience of Christmas may come to you any day, not just on Dec. 25. Expect it. Look for it. Be open to it. As you remember the life of your loved one, especially at the holiday season, pray that in your grief you will discover again the true meaning of Christmas — God's love for humankind. Christmas comes when someone reaches out to you in love. Christmas comes when you reach out to someone in love. Expect an unexpected blessing; be a blessing to others.
Receive the gift of Christmas when moments of light shine in your heart. Light shines in quiet meditation. Light shines in moments of prayer and thanksgiving for the life of your loved one, whose light shines on forever through you. Seek the light of God's love in Christ as you grieve at the holidays and celebrate new life.
Julie Yarbrough, a member of Highland Park UMC in Dallas, is author of Inside the Broken Heart: Grief Understanding for Widows and Widowers and the upcoming small group program "Beyond the Broken Heart" (Abingdon Press, April 2012).