Today I visited with a lady who is experiencing her first Christmas without her father. Though he was elderly when he died, there is still an empty place. On a recent Facebook thread there was a listing of how long it has been without certain loved ones. This is our second Christmas without John Robert and without my stepdad. In some ways it is harder. That first Christmas I was emotionally numb and cannot remember much of it. This time around the numbness is gone and so there is more to contemplate. I’m more aware than ever that I am surrounded by people who are facing the holidays without certain loved ones. For them, and others, it is Christmas without.
Christmas without that certain laugh, that warm hug, that special gift, that moment of thankfulness. It’s Christmas without exchanging memories of Christmas past and speculating over possibilities for the future. Christmas without sharing the enjoyment of favorite foods. It’s Christmas without knowing what it would have been like if the loss had not occurred.
But whatever you can add to that list of things that it is Christmas without, it is always Christmas with. It is a Christmas with the promised hope of new life, witnessed by the birth of the Christ child. It is a Christmas with the reassurance of Emmanuel, God with us. It is a Christmas with gifts that may or may not come from wise men, but they do express the thoughts and care of precious friends and family. It is Christmas with a feast, reminding us of God’s care and guidance. It is Christmas with the reassurance that God’s favor rests upon us.
Yes it is Christmas without. And it is Christmas with. It would be impossible for our minds not to ruminate over both realities. Beyond the part we cannot control, there is the part that we can choose. It is the part of our thinking that chooses where we live. I know some who live in Christmas without, and I know some who live in Christmas with. Learning to live with the pain of separation without letting it control our lives … well … It’s part mystery, part determination, part faith. So as far as I can see from my vantage point, a second Christmas without, it seems that I should embrace all of the joy of the season I can. The shadow of loss will still be there, but it will be a reminder of hope, not a spectre of pain. At lease as much as I can choose to think of things that way.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14
Thanks for reading,