We’re told that Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, a time for family and friends. But over the years I’ve learned that while that may sometimes be true, Christmas is, for many people, a time of deep sorrow and sadness.
For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays can often be difficult as we more blatantly notice their absence. In fact, the first year after suffering from the loss of a loved one is regularly referred to as the “Year of Firsts” – first Christmas, first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first anniversary… and the list goes on.
Over the past two months we’ve suffered the stillbirth of our youngest daughter. To add insult in injury, just a couple weeks after that we lost one of our family dogs when her cancerous cyst burst open in the middle of the night. Then just this past week we lost a puppy. Yes, a puppy – the puppy we had purchased as a Christmas gift for our girls in an attempt to bring some joy and happiness into the midst of grief and sorry. That puppy.
So at this point we’re fairly acquainted with grief and sorrow; three times in the past month I’ve had to give my daughters bad news that led to many shed tears, and had to answer more “why” questions that I can count.
So it is with a little trepidation that I enter into Christmas.
And yet it is Christmas that I need – that we all need – for it is Christmas that brings the hope we’re longing for. It’s because of Christmas that I have a hope – an expectation – that one day I will see my daughter again. It is because of Christmas I know that “these light and momentary trials are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17); it’s because of Christmas I do not “grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13).
On Christmas God came down to earth as a baby – as a baby – and the invasion began. And roughly 30 years after that first Christmas God died on a cross, then he got up from the dead and forever defeated death and sin and the grave, and for those who surrender to him, we have a hope that far outshines anything this world – or this world’s master – can throw at us.
So, yes, I rejoice this Christmas. Not because of what has happened to us over the past two months, but in spite of it. When our dog died I looked at her through tear-stained eyes as she was laying there on the floor of the vet’s office and I said, “One day he’s going to pay. He’s going to pay.” Death isn’t supposed to win – death isn’t even supposed to be here. And the hope of Christmas is not that death will one day lose, it’s that death has already lost because Jesus has already won.
Am I sad? Yes. Do I grieve? Absolutely – but I do so as one who has hope that Jesus is Lord, He is sovereign, and one day I will be with him in a new heaven and a new earth where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).
So Merry Christmas – even if there are tears (as mine most certainly will have). May the joy of Jesus fill your heart this season as you look back not only on when he came, but also look forward to his return when he will finally, once-and-for-all, set all things right.