Friday, December 15, 2017

A Bitter Sweet Christmas

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” -Matt. 5:4 I absolutely love bittersweet chocolate. I am a recovering chocaholic for sure. Okay, to be honest, I’m not recovering very well! The two flavors mix well and taste SO good. But this Christmas season, I am struggling between the clash of bitter and sweet. Bitter, as I process through losing my mom and missing my dad and two brothers. And sweet, as I celebrate the birth of our wonderful Savior, Jesus. These two emotions just don’t fit very well. It’s oil and water for sure. Family seasons like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are all about stuffing. We stuff the turkey for sure, but we tend to become “unstuffed” ourselves. Emotions and feelings that were nicely tucked away during the year come flooding back to us. Though painful, it’s actually a good and healthy thing. It‘s good to be honest with ourselves about our feelings. Big boy’s DO cry and being honest about what we feel makes a huge difference. Why? Because being honest about what we feel allows us to be real with ourselves and with those we love. We don’t need to fear what we feel. Being real about loss allows us to grieve over what we miss. It allows us to heal and move on. It allows us to feel and struggle and step into pain. God wants to comfort those who grieve, but He can only comfort those who acknowledge that they have lost something. Grieving allows us to face the loss, process through it and move on. There’s no time frame in grieving. It takes as long as we need to say “good-bye.” I lost my dad 29 years ago. I’ve lost my two oldest brothers in the last ten years. And I lost my mom after Christmas last year. My brother Bob and I are the two remaining members of the family. I’d love to have our family picture complete again, but life moves on. And we move on as well. Death stinks. Losing a loved one is bitter for sure. As Christians, we do have life beyond the grave. That’s what Christmas is all about. But the losses still hurt. It was not a part of God’s original plan. Sin did and does its damage. I know every time someone grieves over the loss of someone they love, it grieves God’s heart as well. Of course it does. He Himself knows the pain. After all, He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sin so that we might have eternal life. As God watched His beautiful baby, Jesus, cuddle in the manager, He knew that death would be His lot. He knew that His precious Son would die a horrible death. It was bittersweet for Him as well. Sweet because He knew that Jesus’ death would bring us life. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Where are you Christmas” sung by Faith Hill. The song begins with these words, “Where are you Christmas, why can't I find you, why have you gone away? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me, why can't I hear music play? My world is changing, I'm rearranging, does that mean Christmas changes too?” The song goes on to highlight the reality that Christmas never goes away, but perseveres as we make the move to come back to celebrate the coming of Jesus. The song addresses both the joy of Christmas and the pain of Christmas. It highlights the two realities: that Christmas is alive and well but that life’s losses require us to rearrange and change and adapt to life’s seasons. I pray this Christmas will be a wonderful one for all of us. May we be willing to “rearrange and change” to find a place for the truth of the birth of Christ to be made new to us all over again. May we be able to embrace the losses but embrace the gains as well. We all are missing loved one’s this Christmas. Let’s not miss the reality of Christ as well. May we all have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the lives we are missing. May we embrace the bitter… …as we taste the sweet. By Eric Joseph Staples©