One of my absolute favorite Christmas songs is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Since we live 10 hours from both my parents and Jonathan’s, it’s always debatable whether or not we will be able to be with our physical family during the holidays. But this year, I have realized that there are many out there for whom this song is even more significant. This year I have realized that there are so many of those we love who may be “home for Christmas,” but their “home” will never be the same. This year I am focused on my many friends and brethren who have lost loved ones and had their home, their holiday, and their lives changed forever.
It is no secret that the holidays are especially hard for those who have lost loved ones. It is also no secret that for those of us who are still blessed to celebrate with all of our children, our spouse and our parents, the pain of our friends and brethren can make us uncomfortable. I also struggle because I’m aware of their pain, and I’m terrified of making it worse. Because of this I often avoid reaching out to my brethren who are hurting, or when I do reach out I avoid mentioning their loved one’s name for fear of making things worse.
The irony is that these individuals are already thinking of their loved one every minute of every day. Every Christmas decoration they see is already bringing back dozens of memories. They are already struggling to breathe and to hold in their tears, fighting to maintain a brave face.
James 12:15 reminds us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” This holiday season I challenge you to let your love and support overflow to those who have lost loved ones. Invite a widow or widower to join your family for Christmas dinner or go see Christmas lights with your family. Take a mother who has lost a child out to eat and let her share her favorite holiday memories or buy her a massage or a pedicure to relax. Help a son who has lost his father put up his Christmas lights and give him an opportunity to share memories of his father.
The beauty of the church is that even when our physical family is hours away, or even on the other side of eternity, we still have a family who can be with us everyday. Those who can wrap their arms around us, cry with us and share memories with us. The question is: are we truly striving to be the family Christ designed the church to be?
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This kind of love doesn’t come from three hours a week on Sundays and Wednesdays. It also doesn’t come from just a meal or a card surrounding the loss of a loved one. This kind of love, of fellowship, of family, comes from being in each other’s lives on a regular basis. This kind of love comes from putting our own discomfort and fear aside long enough to help bear the grief, loss, and memories both happy and painful that our brethren struggle with every day.
This holiday season, I challenge you to do things a little bit differently. Squeeze your family a little tighter. Say an extra prayer (or fifty) of thankfulness for the family that you are able to share your holidays with. Then reach out to a brother, sister, or family that won’t quite be whole this holiday season. Remind them that they are not alone, remind them that you love them, and help them both bear and share their grief and their memories this holiday season.