I know that Christmas is only 10 days away. I am as excited about the holiday now as I was when I was a child. Over the years the traditional Crawford Christmas has changed as our family dynamics have been redefined. Gift cards have replaced toys, video games, and clothes. Texts and phone calls, Face Time and Zoom have replaced driving through snow to share Christmas brunch and dinner. My nephew-in-law will be with us for the first time if he isn’t on call at the hospital. Our youngest participant is already four.
This is one of the happiest seasons of the year. And yet, as I look forward to Christmas 2021, I can’t help but look back to the devastating storms which hit Kentucky and other states last Friday. I am also thinking about the 900 plus employees of a real estate company who attended a Zoom meeting to learn that they were being fired. The collapse of the Surfside condos and those affected by Ida’s path are still on my mind. I also feel for those who are grieving because this will be the first Christmas or another Christmas without a spouse, parent, or child.
We’re not supposed to be sad on Christmas. For some of us, it is a struggle to be happy. My sister Gretchee began her Christmas countdown on December 26th. She would invest the entire year collecting, making, or figuring out a way to purchase the right gift for everyone she knew. Often, she would hide presents so well, that she forgot where they were when the next Christmas rolled around. She was the person who took pictures of the kids opening their presents, gathered around the table, or peeking in their stockings. Our first Christmas after she died was a tribute to all the ways she’d hunt for gifts on shopping networks, in department stores, and on the internet.
My father died when I was in my twenties. His was the first death in our family. That Christmas, each of us wanted to make sure everyone else was happy. We went all out to get one another that special gift. That was the year my mom got her Kitchen Aid Mixer. I received a t. v. and VCR. My sister Lynn got a complete set of cookware to replace the secondhand items she had been using. We tried to fill the void that my father’s death left. We succeeded until we sat down for dinner. He wasn’t with us to carve the roast, and that’s when the tears began to flow.
It was after Gretchee died that I attended my first Blue Christmas service. The time in worship helped me to know it is alright to be sad in this season of joy. Each time I saw the tree with the blue decorations, I thought about those I had lost, who get to enjoy Christmas in heaven, and how wonderful that must be. The fellowship time following the service included a conversation inviting us to share something about the people we miss, even as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
More than anything, Christmas is a season of giving, and a season of love. So many people this year need to know that we grieve with them and that we are praying for them. Families will gather together, knowing that one or more seats at the dinner table will be empty for the first time or the next time. I ask prayers for families who have lost loved ones, homes, and jobs. Let’s help and comfort one another, especially those who are full of sorrow this year. And Amen.