Even though Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year” and the world seems awash with cheerfulness, color and lights, the holidays can be sad for some.
It’s sad for some because of the death of a loved one or because it can be a reminder of the broken family someone comes from or because someone is sick and dying or a myriad of other reasons. Often, the result is a feeling of emptiness and absence in what is not but could be or should be.
Last year my family experienced the loss of a beloved member of our family two days before Thanksgiving. The feelings of sadness and emptiness were present through the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas and for many days afterward. It was hard to remember sometimes, and especially during holidays like Christmas, that God is with us in those moments of sadness.
Emmanuel, God is With Us
When Christmas is celebrated and discussed in our faith, we think of the joy and wonderful things that God gave humanity with the birth of Christ. For many, it is easy to excitedly proclaim “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel!”
Yet in the midst of sadness, it is difficult to celebrate with anticipation the coming of Emmanuel. It’s not easy to comprehend that Emmanuel means “God is with us.” Yes, we may know what Emmanuel means, but to comprehend Emmanuel in our lives is different and difficult. Especially when we are full of sadness.
We forget that Emmanuel means that God is really and truly with us in every moment of both joy and sorrow. We forget that the celebration of Christmas is more than just the celebration of the birth of Christ, it is a celebration of the suffering and death of Christ 33 years after his birth. And we forget that suffering and death is part of our reality here on earth too.
Celebrating Death with Emmanuel
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the anniversary of my uncle’s passing with mixed emotions of sadness of missing him but joy that he is with God. We still miss him and will always feel a sense of emptiness at his absence, especially during the holidays. I understand the difficulties reconciling a season of joy with a personal season of sadness.
Last year I wasn’t really able to focus on Advent being a time of preparation for the coming of Christ’s birth because of my uncle’s death. Instead, I just asked God to be with me, unknowingly living the word Emmanuel in my Advent preparation and prayer. So this year part of my Advent prayer has been to focus on Emmanuel. To focus on and be aware of God being with me and me with him.
And I challenge you to do the same.
Reach out to someone who may be struggling with sadness during the holiday season and help them see Emmanuel through you.