By Catherine Krasinski
It’s amazing how many of us resonate with the idea of having to “survive” the holidays. There’s the financial strain, the craziness of Christmas shopping, the pressure to become a gourmet chef for a couple of days, the tension and arguments that can come with seeing relatives. And, if you’ve lost a loved one, the holidays can be even more difficult.
You may be aware that our church hosts an annual GriefShare event called Surviving The Holidays, for those who have lost loved ones. This event is something I care about deeply, having lost my mum to lymphoma when I was 22. She was always so good at doing Christmas – making sure we all felt loved: decorating the house, buying gifts, doing all the cooking, hosting parties. After her death, her absence was particularly painful at Christmas. But my response at the time was to avoid the pain of her absence by carrying on as if nothing had happened. After all, Christmas is meant to be a joyful time, isn’t it?
One of the most revolutionary messages I learned about Christmas as I tried and failed to ignore my grief, year after year, is that Christmas is not primarily about having a wonderful time with our favorite people. As GriefShare’s Surviving The Holidays event emphasizes, Christmas can be thought of as the sufferer’s holiday. When I stopped to think about it, I recognized that the Father didn’t send His Son into the world to have a wonderful time hanging out with his favorite people. Jesus came because of our suffering – He came to deal with our sin, to reconcile us with our Father and to defeat death once and for all. It was such a comfort to me to realize that Christmas isn’t a time to forget about death and ignore pain, but to rejoice that this isn’t the end of our story.
I found a lot of freedom in allowing tears at Christmas. To acknowledge my sadness meant I could be comforted in it. Christmas was a reminder that God took sin and death seriously and could identify with the pain that it caused. The joy of the Christmas message felt so much brighter to me against a backdrop of suffering.
Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”