A year ago today, my phone rang in the middle of church. It was my dad, calling to tell me that my grandma had died. In a heartbeat, our Christmas season had radically changed. Instead of band concerts and parties, we spent the next week traveling to Kentucky and planning a funeral. Though we knew my grandma was having her best Christmas ever, getting to spend it with Jesus, we were left to grieve the passing of someone we loved dearly. Much of the Christmas spirit was lost in our family.
As I write this today, the immediate pain of my grandma's death has lessened. She was so miserable those last few years that her death was a blessing for her. But the finality of that death still stings on occasion. A year later, I still miss her laugh, her hugs and her love a of a good date cookie at Christmastime -- and I probably always will. Christmas is especially bittersweet as she was a Christmas baby, sharing her birthday with Jesus. As the holiday approaches again, we've found our Christmas spirit again, but for me, there's still a gap, a hole that won't be filled until I see her again in heaven.
While Christmas is the "most wonderful time of the year," it's also a time of the year that magnifies loss. It's a time of the year that opens old wounds. So much of the way we celebrate the holidays revolves around family celebrations. And that means those who have lost family members or those who have a difficult relationship with their families or even those who are just far from home on the holiday may be struggling to find the joy of the season.
It's important to remember as we enter the Christmas season that there are people around us who are hurting. There are people around us who don't view the holiday with as much as joy as they do with dread. There are people who have lost a loved one, people who have no place to go for Christmas dinner, people who are celebrating the first holiday after a divorce, and people who aren't looking forward to sharing time and space with family members who have hurt them.
Psalm 34:18 says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." Jesus came to earth to offer peace to everyone, including the brokenhearted. He commanded us to love our neighbors. As you walk through this Christmas season, be on the lookout for the hurting, for the people who are struggling through this season. Then find a way to love them. Find a way to show them that God cares about them, and you care about them. Be Jesus with skin on for those people.
Include your kids in loving on a family or person who is struggling this season. Maybe you know a family who is hurting from the loss of a mom or dad this Christmas season. Put a Christmas party in a box and leave it on their doorstep. Include cookies, sprinkles and frosting along with a small gift or two.
Invite someone who has no family nearby to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner with you. Include them in your celebrations so they, too, are surrounded by family and friends.
Be respectful of someone else's struggles this season. If you have a friend who needs to grieve a loss, do what you can to ease the load. Offer to do some shopping or baking for them.
There are so many ways we can help the hurting this Christmas season. We just have to open our eyes and look around to see those in our midst who are struggling in the middle of this "most wonderful time of the year."