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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I'll Be Home for Christmas, Part 3 - Grief

Isaiah 61:1-3
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

The Obstacle of Grief
            In the last two articles of this series, we explored how Jesus helps us overcome sin and get our priorities straight so we can be at Home with God this Christmas.  Another obstacle that keeps us from saying, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is grief.  Losing someone who is dear to you is traumatic.  Some have said it is like having one of your limbs cut off.  You may “get on” with life, but you may never fully “get over” your loss because your life has changed forever. 
Christmas can be especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones.  People often feel guilty because everyone says they are supposed to feel happy at Christmas, but instead they feel sad and lonely.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should feel.  There is no right or wrong way to feel.  You can’t control the way you feel.  You just feel the way you feel.  And everybody grieves in their own unique way.  Some people who grieve are dramatic and tearful.  Some are very reserved.  Some people grieve for a long time and some seem to work through their grief quickly.  We must be patient with ourselves and others as we grieve.
Grief is important and necessary.  Psychologist tell us that people who repress their grief find it will eventually bubble to the surface latter on—even if it’s ten years down the road.  It’s important to participate in the process of grief so it doesn’t cause problems latter in life.  Even Jesus—the son of God—grieved.  The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:34, “Jesus wept.”  He wept because his dear friend Lazarus died.  He grieved, even though Jesus knew he would raise him back to life in just a few moments.
One of the beautiful things about Christmas is that it reminds us that God cares about us.  In Jesus Christ, God wrapped our injured flesh around His Holy Spirit and became one of us.  He walked a mile in our shoes.  His name is Emmanuel—God living with us.  He is with us in the happy times and the sad times.  God is with us in our grief.  Because of Christmas, we never have to be alone—even when we feel alone.
And because Jesus was born on Christmas our grief will not last forever, but only for a season.  Even if our grief lasts until we take our final breath, it will not last beyond the grave.  For at death, we are liberated from the pain and suffering of this world.  In heaven, there is no more night and no more pain.  The only tears shed in our Heavenly Home are tears of joy.  Indeed, many of the people we grieve for in this life are at Home with God in Heaven this very moment!  They are experiencing the ultimate reality of the hope and joy and peace and love we pray for and long for and sing about and celebrate at Christmas time!
I think Richard Lewis Detrich says it best in his book How to Recover from Grief.  He says:
Over the years we’ve created a highly commercialized cultural myth that Christmas is a time of happiness, good cheer, family, and friends.  We feel guilty, upset, and cheated if, because of grief, we don’t experience the orgasm of happiness that seems to be expected.  But Christmas is, after all, a time of holy days and not a happy daze.  The meaning of Christmas is in the event, in the coming of Christ into our world and into our lives.  Focus on that event.  Christ wasn’t born at a party or even a family reunion but in a stable, with few other people around.  Planning ahead and focusing on the meaning of Christmas will help you through this difficult time.[i]

            The Home God invites us to is a place where tears are welcome.  You don’t have to act as if you don’t feel sad.  You don’t have to feel guilty for your sorrow.  When no one else understands, God understands your pain—He has lived it; He is with you as you go through it. 
God’s Home is not a commercialized fantasy
where everything is happy, happy, happy. 
God’s Home is a reality that deals candidly
with real pain and ultimately overcomes it.

            Because Jesus, the word of God, became flesh and lived among us, he understands the struggles we face that make being Home for Christmas difficult.  But because Jesus is the Son of God, He has the power to overcome any obstacle that threatens to separate us from God. 
            What keeps you from being at Home with God?  Is it sin? Are you too busy?  Are you weighed down by a load of grief?  Jesus understands your struggles and he has made a way for you to come Home.  Do you hear him calling for you today?  He is calling you Home.  Will you accept his invitation?  Will you come Home for Christmas this year? 

Gracious Heavenly Father,
            Thank You for inviting us Home for Christmas.  Help us to be faithful as we take up our cross and follow Jesus on the road that leads us Home.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

[i] Richard Lewis Detrich and Nicola J. Steele; How to Recover from Grief; revised edition; page 23

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