As Christmas draws near I am realizing just how much not having my Mom with me this year hurts. I know I am not alone in missing someone. Several of you who read have also lost loved ones and you know that tug and pull of celebrating while grieving.
We will make new memories this year but the air will be palpable with longing for those who are not present. One of the new memories for our family will be taking Roses to my mom’s grave in honor of what would have been her and Dad’s 59th wedding anniversary. He had been giving her roses for the past several years.
I think that is what hurts the most – knowing that my Dad has lost his bride. He married her on Christmas Day in 1959 and he loved her well through all the years they had. I remember the week she was in Hospice he held her hand and told her that he had loved her for 58 years and would never stop loving her. I know she heard him because she tried to tell him that she loved him. We heard the word love. It was one of the last moments that we knew she was still somewhat aware of us. A moment we will treasure.
Two hearts entwined; inseparable LBT
Christmas is Love. The greatest love ever given to us was the birth of Jesus. It is because of his love that we are capable of loving. It is because of his love that my parents were able to celebrate so many years together and raise their children to know Jesus. I know my mom loved Jesus. She would tell me that she wanted to see Jesus. In the midst of the Alzheimer’s she still knew who Jesus was and she would talk about him.
This year she is celebrating Christmas with Jesus. She is having the ultimate Christmas and so even though I miss her terribly and know that Christmas will be bittersweet this year I am rejoicing with her that she is experiencing the greatest love of all this Christmas.
She has received the gift that was anticipated for so long. Her long-expected Saviour has arrived. As we are celebrating the Advent of Christmas, we too can wait expectantly for the Christ-child. We can open our hearts to receive him. He will be our comfort and help us navigate the missing, the longing, the memories and the hope of one day being reunited.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:11
We often think of joy in terms of wild exhilaration or shouting from the rooftops. But joy can also be a quiet peace that settles in the bottom of our soul and wraps a scarf of contentment around us.
For me this year Joy has been on the quieter side. Maybe it’s been that way for you too.
Grief sometimes leaves us feeling drained and weary; if we are not careful we crowd out the joy.
When we find ourselves in that situation we need to take time to sit in the stillness and allow joy to quietly well up in our soul.
I found myself Home alone the other evening relaxing in the big chair with a cozy blanket and I realized that underneath everything that I was going through the joy was there. I acknowledged it and I accepted the peace that it brought.
As I go through this season of Advent that can sometimes seem hectic I want to be able to pause for those moments of quiet joy and allow them to sustain me.
The source of our Joy, of course, is Jesus and his gift of salvation that began in the manger.
I pray that you find comfort in the joy of Advent. One way to do that is to make a Joy list. I’m sharing some of my list below. Maybe you would like to share yours in the comments.
1. Birth of my savior.
2. Friends and family.
3. Christmas lights.
4. Beautiful music.
5. Being still before God.
Maybe you’re finding it hard to see the joy this year. If that is the case then may I suggest that every day you look around you and find one thing no matter how small that can bring you Joy. Start a list and see how many things you can add between now and Christmas Day.
I wish you all the joys of the season and peace in your heart.
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
Tomorrow, Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent; A time when we usher in the Christmas season with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each year our church does an advent devotional booklet written by members of our congregation. Our theme this year is Christmas Carols. For this first week of advent, I thought I’d share with you one that I wrote (a few weeks ago to meet the deadline). It may seem dark, but I hope you see the hope and light shining through the words.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee to-night.
As I sit here in what appears to be one of my brain fog days, trying to conjure up Christmas thoughts on the day after Halloween, not to mention I need to gear up for giving thanks, I find myself wishing I could just hibernate for the next several weeks. It might have something to do with the cold trying to gain momentum as I type, or it could be all the muddy swirl going on in the world around us, close to home even. The news is full of shootings, unhinged politicians, drugs, and mystery illnesses just to name a few. It’s enough to make even the most stoic among us cringe and say wake me up when it’s over.
If only it were that easy to just hibernate through the bad times. But that’s not how it works. We are told in scripture that in this world we will have trouble. I guess the world has decided to live up to its reputation. However, trouble does not have to define us. God always has the antidote to trouble. He made specific provision for trouble over two thousand years ago with the arrival of Baby Jesus. He sent him, not to save us from the world or to shield us from trouble, but to save us in spite of the world, to save us from our sin and help us in our trouble. He wants to help the whole world in its trouble.
If ever there was a time that the whole world needs help I’d say it’s about now. As I read the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem I am encouraged because I see the light of Christ shining in the dark streets of the world. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met…” All the years tells me that we are not the only generation that needs help in our troubles. If you research history you will find that each generation since the dawning of man has had its share of trouble. There have been dark streets full of secrecy and evil; full of plans orchestrated by the enemy; full of fear. But if you look closely, even in the darkest night there has been a light shining. There has been hope residing next to fear.
That shining light began long before the baby was sent to a lowly manger. All throughout the Old Testament scriptures the thread of God’s provision, our hope, was told. Early in the book of Genesis we are confronted with the reality of sin and the need for salvation; In Genesis 49:10 (ESV) we hear of a ruler who will come, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. And in Isaiah 1:11(ESV) it was prophesied, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
In the New Testament, we see Jesus himself, the great light shining for all to see. Even in his darkest hour, he rose forth victorious and every generation since then has had Godly men and women rise up to be the light in a dark world and show them the love of Jesus. So yes, there will be fear and trouble and plenty of it some days, but the gift of hope and light has been given. Freely given:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.
O Lord, hear our prayer:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray! Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Open our hearts to receive you still. Enter in I pray. Amen.
Most of the Christmas decorations are still packed away in crates and drawers. And I don’t have any plans to dig them out. For some reason I wanted small trees this year and peace. I had ordered a set of small trees on a whim from an online retailer. I put them on my mantle with some greenery and pine cones. I visited a local shop where the proprietor had small trees (the largest is about two foot) at a great price and bought five so my Byer Christmas Trio would look like they were standing at the edge of an evergreen forest. Then I purchased a bag of inexpensive bottle brush trees to display with a couple of small box houses, making a tree farm of sorts. I added a trio of small trees and a bowl that belonged to my great grandmother, full of small pinecones that I found in the mountains on a long ago trip, to my little desk. I added old brown crocks into the mantle display, put a single candle surrounded by greenery on a small stand, hung jingle bells on the front door, placed a sprig of berries on a doorknob, put out a few of my Christmas books and called it a day.
It’s just enough to honor the season without taking away from the true meaning. It’s just enough to remind me that making a home can be a blessing, but not so much that I’m exhausted. And, if I decide that I’m too tired to put it away and it all hangs around for awhile, it still blends in as winter decor, leaving me the freedom to put it away gradually without stress. It’s all pretty low key. it’s all just enough peace to keep me grounded and help me find my sense of place. You can see it in pictures below. Welcome.
Hope your Christmas is filled with just enough peace and grace,
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’. Luke 2:13-14
Throughout this season of Advent, we have been waiting for the arrival of the Christ child, watching to see how God is with us and preparing our hearts to receive him. His arrival is one of great celebration, a time of praise.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they sang “Gory to God in the highest”. The sky lit up with brightness, and the star led the way to the manger. I would imagine to those Shepherds alone in the quiet darkness that it was indeed a spectacular announcement. It certainly grabbed their attention and propelled them to go and worship the king.
They didn’t wait for a more convenient time; they went immediately to kneel at his feet in adoration and thanksgiving. They knew the moment was now. I think they also knew that the moment was for all eternity.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen… Luke 2:20
The moment we encounter Christ his glory comes down, and our praise goes up, and it is a praise for all time. Even when we don’t’ feel like praising.
If I’m totally honest, my emotions have been up and down during this Christmas season. They have ranged from despair to hope to peace to disgruntledness to just so-so. The constant has been that I know he doesn’t change. And, I know he is here with me in all of my many moods. So, even in the moments when the last thing I feel like doing is celebrating, I can still speak words of praise for his arrival. I can still be thankful he came, and I can still share his good news of hope with those around me.
Maybe your praise is celebratory with flashing lights, or maybe your praise is more a quiet reflection, but wherever you fall on the spectrum of praise, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child; to remember why he came and to look forward to his coming again.
The king has arrived, he’s in the house, and his reign is forever and ever
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever. Psalm 145:21
Praising in grace,
Today’s post is 4th in an Advent series, one for each week of Advent. Wait, Watch, Prepare and Praise. For all four weeks in the series you can click on each title: