I grieve every Christmas. I miss my father the most this time of year. He passed away right before Thanksgiving four years ago. The grief always seemed so out of place with Christmas fast approaching. But this year I know different.
I believed it was somehow ungrateful to approach Christmas and the gift of a Savior and King with anything less than unbridled joy. It seemed cheap and flimsy to admit that in the merriment and festivities there was an ache and a void.
It seemed wrong to say that although I worship a God who would humble Himself and abandon heaven to come small and poor and weak to give me life, I still feel small and poor and weak in my life.
It’s as if I was rejecting the gift of Jesus when I could still feel the sharp edges of this broken world pressing in.
I want the Kingdom promised. I want to see it poured out in more than tidily wrapped gifts and strung bows, hymns on bowed lips, and the warmth and flicker of our fireplace. I want it to be more than obligation and striving, pretense and comfort.
I want it to be soul rest and peace and shalom in the places where hearts are rent and weary, depressed and lonely. I want to see a world met, songs sung in every tongue, and no one cold. And it’s not that, not yet.
I feel grief is most present when I celebrate.
We live incomplete. Often the void calls out and tinges the edges of every carol, every sticky candy-cane lipped smile. We wrap ourselves in Hallmark movies with happy endings and wish for Christmas miracles; we feel the fraud when we hurt this much at Christmas. The scrooge who somehow hasn’t harnessed the magical power of the Messiah and positive self-talk.
I hear the joy of the Christmas carols sung cheerily by red-cheeked children, fresh from stomping new patterns in the snow, hands cupped around mugs of cocoa while their discarded snow clothes lay dripping in a pile by the back door.
I sense the wonderment they feel when the white lights twinkle on our tree, and I laugh at the cluster of ornaments at my five-year-old’s eye level where he carefully placed them. I’ll see a glimpse and flicker of beauty, a foreshadowing of perfect things. And I’ll whisper thanks because they are a gift, but they are not the Giver.
Today, the wrapping paper will be piled up, long torn with bows undone. The bustling calendar and last minute runs to the store, the cookie exchanges, and parties, the get-togethers will rest in the aftermath of Christmas Day.
You may have had to work extra shifts because that was the only way to put a present under the tree for your little ones. You may be stretched so thin to see them tear into the paper and wish you could give them a world where the lack wasn’t always so present. You may be balancing your checkbook and checking your hours and hoping it works out while the bills pile up and the hours get cut.
You may be surrounded by family and friends or you may be alone today. You may not know which one is better.
You may have done all the dishes or let them sit in the sink. You may wish you had the energy to keep it clean and together, but you find yourself collapsing on the couch while your energy sags into the cushions.
You may feel the talons of depression sinking into your flesh and grasping hold of you, emptying you out and leaving you wanting so badly to feel the joy, to feel the hope. You may be going through the motions for your kids, your husband, your roommate, or coworkers.
You may be exhausted today.
You may have been running toward Christmas or limping along, but you’re here now and still something is missing. Something that no amount of holly and gift wrap and tinsel can fill.
If this is you today, be gentle with yourself.
It’s easy to feel the exhale and letdown today and realize you were holding your breath. You were pushing through to make it something special. You were filling the void. You were making the memories. You were creating beauty and moments to pause and give thanks. Or you weren’t and it’s been nagging at you that you haven’t done enough to make beauty, to serve, to give, to rejoice properly.
It’s easy to look at the last month of Advent and think of the anticipation building. It’s easy to look around today and see that something is still missing no matter what you did.
The Kingdom of God promised with our Savior is both here at hand and also not yet.
We live in the longing. We are met and yet yearn. We are filled and yet hunger and thirst. We celebrate and we grieve. We are a people whose Savior has come and yet we wait with anticipation still.
The weary world rejoices but sometimes the weariness remains long through the praise. So be extra gentle with yourself today as we wait. We know this: we do not wait alone. Unto us a Savior is born.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I have often wondered why I seem to like the days after Christmas the best. The tree is still lighted and the presents have long been unwrapped. The cookies are gone and there is a quiet hush. I think it’s because, like you so beautifully pointed out, we are trying to be as we think we “should” be at Christmas – full of joy, gratitude, merriment, adoration…but the reality is that it is often accompanied by grief, regret, hurt, pain… The truth is that joy and pain can coexist, but somehow I/we feel that should not be the case at Christmas. For me too – the expectation of Christmas shines a spotlight on what is missing – a parent who has passed, a prodigal who is not at the dinner table, a marriage partner who has left. Sometimes it’s almost a relief to get through Christmas. Thank you for the permission granted to be easy on ourselves. Drop the “should’s” and the “I ought to’s” and just be. God came for us just as we are and He is enough in whatever condition we find ourselves. Thank you….needed this!
Me too. Blessing thanks and love.
Robin Etheredge Moore says
This is exactly how I feel. My dad passed away 2 years ago this past October & the grief is still there. I struggled to listen to Christmas music because it brings to mind memories that are both precious & painful. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Mary c says
A blessing to read your words Alia Joy & your comments Bev’s.
Inett Lindley says
I believe this one to be the most profound word I’ve read. Grief is lingering and heartfelt and soulfelt and spirit felt. I applaud you for your honestly and ability to bear it all so that we can be assured of the Christ in us all.
I feel this way too and I felt guilty.
Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.
GSD Lover says
I called into work sick today, the 2nd day this week (which I NEVER do). I couldn’t get out of bed for the past 5 days and hadn’t showered or got out of my pajamas. (Ew, I know)
I’ve suffered from depression for over 30 years, “high functioning”, and under the care of a psychiatrist. I called her this morning and “confessed” my decline…… and she told me to just shower and return to bed.
God fed Elijah in the cave. I have such high expectations on myself (pride?) and her telling me that it’s OK to be gentle on myself was like a healing balm. And this article confirms it. As women, we just have to be PERFECT. All.the.time. It’s so incredibly exhausting. And then throw in the holidays, and my coping skills (without God’s strength, of course!) are just so overwhelmed.
This article reminded me that Jesus’ grace is sufficient. I don’t have to DO just BE and not be so harsh but be gentle on myself. Thanks for the encouragement. It was clearly Holy Spirit inspired (timely).
In it with you , Sister! Prayers for a kindred spirit…..
Praying for you.
This devotion was so needed for me today. Thankful for the honesty and vulberability here.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Dear Alia Joy, this is the second Christmas without my mom. It has been an emotional month. Your feelings mirror my own. I actually woke up while still dark,came downstairs to light the tree, and sit in the quiet. While looking at the lights and the manger I’m hoping for the moment of peace. Your post reminded me that I can still celebrate Christmas,even if my heart is aching.
Thanks for this. It was my fifth Christmas without my beloved husband and can so relate. Hope you have a wonderful year ahead. At least we grieve with hope knowing we will all be together again soon! Sharon
So good, I relate to this so well Thank you for the “me too” moment:)
MIchele Morin says
I love the longing in your words that reminds me that we are a people who wait. So thankful to be waiting in community and reading words that bring joy and peace.
Wow Alia! Absolutely beautifull! I know the pain of feeling like I’m not enough or that I’m not doing enough. I also know the longing. But your words have spoke to my heart. On this side of Heaven we will always be longing, even know we are blessed and full. We will be longing for Heaven and the day when we see our great Savior face to face. Thank you for sharing this today. I pray that you and your family have a happy, healthy, peace filled New Year! Xoxo ❤
I think I am going to print this and put it away with my Christmas decorations so I can read it at the beginning of the Season. You nailed my self-talk, the guilt of not feeling-it.
All of the yes! Christmas seemed easier when my kids were little. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement. The kids are teens. We lost my grandma and my dad a month apart 4 summers ago. One of my mom’s dogs was really sick this Christmas and was put to sleep yesterday. It all adds up to forgetting the real point of Christmas.
Perfect timing. Sunday marks 2 years since my son’s passing. I feel beaten. The one thing that helps is having my grandchildren around. I feel like my family fell apart since his passing. He was the baby of the family
One of his siblings who is closest in age to him pulled away after his passing and has made a mess of her life. She
.gotten into trouble with the law (misdeanors), just so many things! My husband and I just coexist because he continually wants to come to her rescue “for the sake of her kids” and I disagree. I ask for prayer for strength and guidance and most of all peace.
Said a prayer for you.
Beth Williams says
People put expectations on themselves to be “jolly” at Christmas. This is often not the case. Many people are grieving losses or dealing with illnesses. Just go visit nursing homes or assisted livings and you see elderly people who don’t even know what day it is or why we are celebrating. Yes we need to give ourselves permission to be gentle and not get upset if we don’t have a “perfect” Christmas or aren’t in the Christmas spirit.
Have a blessed New Year!
Alia, your post was so beautifully written, so heartfelt, so true and states exactly how I’ve been feeling during this Christmas season. Missing my precious daughter who went to heaven last March and my five year old granddaughter who is now living so far away because my son remarried and chose a new location for their home. I’ve been going through the motions, feeling so bad that I’m not happy like I’m supposed to be and knowing I should be rejoicing over why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Your words made such sense to me! We’re not there yet. We still anticipate what’s to come. The healing, the reunion, the reason for why Jesus did what he did. While having my weekly cry and admitting to my husband I didn’t know how to handle the hurt especially through the holidays, wondering why our daughter had to die, my husband told me I need to remember that Jesus also had to die. He was born and then had to die for us out of pure unconditional, sacrificial love. So our daughter’s death has meaning also. And it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning for her! So thank you for such an inspiring post and a reminder to me that we’ll get there; we’ll understand and we’ll be free from the sadness of this world eventually. In the meantime, I will be try to be gentle with myself. God bless you and your family as you travel this journey along with the rest of us who are grieving as well.
Ugh. So so good, Alia. Such great truth here. Thank you.
Tammy Garrish says
Thanks so much for sharing. I have felt all those things this year; we live far from family, my Dad passsed away 11 years ago and I am working retail so I did not have much energy to decorate at home. Thanks for giving me permission to grieve and be okay with not being enough. So encouraging! I need to give myself grace.
I am 60 years old, married, no children. Nieces and nephews grown up, some married. Holidays change over the years, how we spend them. I have some friends from school who are going through extremely bad health challenges now.
Instead of wishing people a happy new year on Facebook I wrote a post asking for prayer for people who are dealing with health challenges and also wishing that people find peace and contentment as they live their lives.
Alia Joy, I always thrill when I see your name here because you speak your truth which often shows me my truth. Thank you beyond any words for your honesty and transparency. You remind me to slow down and be, not do, and most important, to be kind to myself! Thank you for that.
Jane Schultes says
I can finally breathe now, sorta. 2 years ago our family was hit time and again with heavy loss of loved ones (4 deaths and a broken arm) over the holidays. I had 3 grown children needing me and I had a newly broken arm in my own struggle and I could not be ‘there’ for all of them. Altho the losses were close relationships of my grown children I have to be ‘the mom’ , strong and encouraging, needing answers for them that I don’t have. Come January the pressure will be less but I still have to be ‘the mom’ to these hurting grown children. This year we are having to help my mom emotionally prepare for the nursing home. I don’t have it in me but I breathe, and talk to Jesus who has promised to heal the brokenhearted.
Nancy Ruegg says
With other commenters, I say thank you, Alia, for stating the honest truth: we do “live in the longing” for the time when Jesus will reign over us in his perfect kingdom and grief will be no more. You are so right: when sadness does overshadow joy, a bit of waiting and resting in our Shepherd’s arms IS the wisest course of action.
Melissa Henderson says
Yes, be gentle with yourself. We all grieve in different ways and different times. There is no time limit on grief. I am thankful that God holds us in His loving arms as we grieve. He cries with us.
These words captured so eloquently what I have felt this Christmas season. Thank you.
Wow, I totally relate to your insights and honesty. I really appreciate it. Life situations keep changing as we get older and our children get older and we lose family members. This is much harder than I ever imagined. We are now at least in a church where there is some support, more than we had, but that can also be disappointing.
Really good thoughts.