Having a blue Christmas is reality for many

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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By Scott Baker

As we round the final stretch toward Christmas, so much of our lives is infused with the Christmas season and spirit. It is a season marked by celebration, joy, family and optimism for the coming year. The stores we shop in, and the main streets we walk down are all festooned with the decorations that mark the season as one that is upbeat, happy and joyful. The music we listen to and the TV shows we watch (not too mention the plethora of new release movies) all seem to reinforce the themes and mood of the season. For many of us, this is part and parcel to the season and it is what makes the time of year so very special.

Yet for others, being surrounded by all the merriment can be salt in a wound. There will be many in our communities, perhaps even in our own families, who, for them the Christmas season is painful, even depressing. Due to the death of a loved one, Christmas is diminished and all the joy and celebration makes the contrast of their sadness and grief all the more pronounced.

In my years in the priesthood I’ve had numerous counseling sessions with parishioners grappling with loss and grief. It is especially painful within the first 12 months following the death of a loved one. Because, in that first year there is what many call “the year of firsts” without that loved one. The first Thanksgiving, the first birthday, the first anniversary and, of course, the first Christmas — all are faced with a profound sense of pain and mourning. I try to counsel parishioners and tell them to honor their feelings, cry if you feel like crying, share memories and stories, and give thanks for all the holidays and special occasions you shared in the past. I warn them that it won’t make the pain go away, but may help to make it a little more bearable.

For the rest of us not living our “year of firsts” being mindful of those around us who are is a kindness worth showing. Offering condolences and sympathy, not just at the time of death, but especially during those occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc., can help make the pain a little easier, knowing others are there to be supportive. Simply reaching out and acknowledging that the Christmas season may be a little more difficult for them can be the soothing balm needed precisely at that very moment.

The irony is that during this season when we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, the grief can overwhelm the work he came to do. For many Christians, we face death with hope in the resurrection. Or to quote The Book of Common Prayer, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too shall be raised.”

John Wesley, in his iconic hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” poetically captures the deep meaning of Christmas, “Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth. Risen with healing in his wings, light and life to all he brings, hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hark! The herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King!”

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.