Christmas can be a time of bittersweetness for so many.
While joyous as we celebrate the birth of a Savior, it can also be a reminder of the preciousness of life itself.
The expressions on children’s faces as they tear open those packages and get that something special are memories that bring smiles to our faces.
I was fortunate my Christmases were always filled with joy, lots of presents, caroling and my mother’s special party mix that my daughter has thankfully been able to replicate. We are blessed this year to enjoy Christmas with a grandchild for the first time. He’s only 8 months old but it adds a level of excitement to the holidays for us. The photos of him by the Christmas tree, videos of him cooing under that tree and snapshots of him with Santa will be part of our new memories that make this time of the year so special.
The bittersweetness comes because of the loved ones who have gone before us. The memories are there, but there’s an emptiness inside that can’t be replaced.
Even this Christmas season, my heart breaks for my brother, who is going through the holidays without his beloved wife for the first time even as his 18-month-old grandchild starts to understand what happens during this time of the year. My brother will be sure that their granddaughter knows how much her grandmother loved her and how much she loved Christmas.
Pam’s home was always decked out for the holidays and the food that came out of her kitchen screamed good times as did her joyful, generous and kind hospitality that made their home one of the most welcoming places on the planet. We loved Pam so much and miss her every day.
My brother, a pastor in Florida, says it this way when people ask how he’s doing: “I’m grieving nicely, thank you.”
Many other families are grieving the losses that seem to be particularly difficult to deal with at Christmas because memories are so vivid.
The last Christmas my father was alive lives with me. I can remember singing carols in mom and dad’s living room. Tears welled up because I knew, we all did, this was going to be his last Christmas with us. Maybe it helped to know that because we were able to experience one more special Christmas memory together. When we lose someone like we did Pam this summer, that opportunity doesn’t exist to make one more memory.
That babe born in a manger some 2,000 years ago is the only way anyone can begin to feel comfort and joy in those situations. My brother has relied on his “good, good Heavenly Father” to make it through each and every day. Tim has been a rock of support for us – and others - even during this time when we should be uplifting him.
One of my favorite Christmas Eves came a few years ago when my wife and I went over to our church and had our own personal candlelight service. I don’t recall the circumstances, but the church didn’t have a Christmas Eve service that year, so we decided to have one on our own.
We brought our own candles, read the Christmas story, prayed and left renewed, ready to face whatever was in front of us.
It was true peace.
For those who are dealing with loss, I hope you can find that same kind of comfort and joy this Christmas season, too.
The manger awaits for us all.
Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org