How and Why Grieving Families Can Celebrate Christmas with Hope and Joy

How and Why Grieving Families Can Celebrate Christmas with Hope and Joy

For grieving parents, the holidays can be an excruciating time of year. Everywhere they look, they are reminded of what should have been. They see families getting pictures with Santa and desperately wish their baby was sitting on Santa’s lap, wondering who in the world this crazy guy with the beard is. They buy presents for family and friends and grieve over the presents they would have bought for their baby. They receive Christmas card after Christmas card from what seems like perfect families full of happy, healthy children while they wonder if they should include their dead baby’s name on their card; they desperately want their baby to be remembered but also don’t want to deal with the backlash of people who might think they are being morbid. Many families feel like they have to check out of the Christmas festivities altogether in order to survive, and understandably so. However, I would like to suggest that Christmas is actually meant for people who are suffering and grieving. When you understand the true meaning of Christmas, it suddenly becomes a time of healing and hope instead of a season of pain and isolation.

Between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, there were hundreds of years where the Jewish people were waiting on God to send the Messiah. As time went on and there were no new prophecies from God, people began to doubt God’s promises. Would a Messiah really come? Had God forgotten about His people? No, He had not forgotten; His plan was at work. But how often do we do the same thing? We perceive God as silent, thinking He has forgotten about our pain and will never bring joy into our lives again. As humans, we are really terrible at being patient and trusting that God is at work (I speak from experience here). And then, all of a sudden, Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would have a baby boy named Jesus, and that baby would be the long-awaited Messiah.

There was no fanfare, no royal birth. There was a stable with a feeding trough, a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, and two parents amazed at what God had done. There was a man named Simeon, a devout man who was waiting for the Messiah, one who had never given up hope. On the day when Jesus was presented to the Lord at the temple, the Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple so that he could see the One he had been waiting for his whole life. In Luke 2: 29-31, as Simeon held Jesus in his arms, he said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” That little baby was everything, the fulfillment of every promise and the key to our salvation.

I remember my first Christmas as a grieving parent; all I wanted for Christmas was for my babies to be alive. I wanted God to turn back time, change what happened to me, and let my family be whole. But throughout the Christmas season, God showed me that He had already sent me the baby that I truly needed: Jesus Christ. Because of that baby, I could have faith that my babies were alive in heaven. Because of Jesus, I didn’t have to grieve without hope. Because God sent Jesus to this earth, I could believe that everything sad and terrible would be reversed.

Advent is a season of hopeful waiting, a time to remember that God does indeed keep His promises. It’s a chance to let God come to you and comfort you; He will tell you that when it feels like He is silent, He is still working. He will carry your grief and point you to Jesus, reminding you that He does care for you and will one day completely heal your pain. Yes, Christmas is a hard time of year for grieving parents, but please don’t believe for a second that Christmas is only for happy, whole people. No, Christmas is for the broken, for the ones who need a Savior. Christmas is for the ones that are waiting for God to come down into the hurt of this world and fix it. He has come to this world, and He died for the brokenness. And He rose again and defeated that nasty enemy called death. And He will come again and make all things new.

Merry Christmas to all the bereaved parents – may Jesus bring you comfort, peace, and hope for a better future.

Lauren Young is a wife to Will and mom to two beautiful boys on earth (Matti and Sammy) and three precious babies in heaven (Hope, Jonah, and January).  She is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys writing, reading good books, cooking new recipes, and playing piano.  She lives in central Texas now but was born and raised in Georgia.  She and her husband are now in the adoption process and can't wait to see what God has in store for their family. 

Catherine Hartel

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