Last Updated on January 8, 2021
There’s nothing better than the smell of a fresh cut tree at Christmas time.
Perhaps the only thing better would be sitting down to a plate of warm sugar cookies. The kind of cookies frosted over with sprinkles galore.
Add twinkling lights and glittery ornaments, and it’s no surprise Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also no surprise that Christmas is infinitely more conflicting after someone you love has died.
How do you celebrate Christmas in the wake of death?
Christmas After Losing a Loved One
Sweet memories often surface around this time of year for me. In particular, I think of times when my dad would drive our family to a local tree farm. I loved walking through the rows of trees with him and searching out the perfect one.
The Christmas season always holds wonderful memories of my dad.
But that’s just it. All I have are memories of him. There are no new memories to be made.
Old memories sting with the reminder that my dad passed away three years ago. There will never be another Christmas with him. And though time does weaken the blow of death, the mended pieces of my heart will never be the same.
The First Christmas
I remember the first Christmas season without him. It was three years ago when December came and no birthday celebrations were planned for my dad.
A few weeks went by, and my dad was absent at every family gathering. The wake of his death left me raw, exposed, hurting, and wondering how in the world I’d celebrate Christmas without him.
How can anyone celebrate Christmas after the death of their loved ones? Christmas is all about joy, peace, and hope. How is it possible to celebrate when you feel less than these?
It is possible. It’s miraculous, of course, so it will always seem impossible.
But believe me – the miracle is possible. Christmas is a miracle.
How to Celebrate Christmas After Losing a Loved One
First of all, live in the present.
Enjoy the people who are with you now. Make new memories with them.
Treasure the blessings you have. And remember, one of those blessings is the sweet memories of your loved one you hold dear.
Second, don’t isolate yourself.
Our tendency is to isolate ourselves when we are going through difficult times.
Instead of suffering alone, reach out to people who have offered their support. Let others in. Be a part of the church. Serve others, and let others serve you.
Finally, embrace the season as the right season.
True joy, peace, and hope are not found in the festivities of the Christmas season.
Christmas cookies only last so long. Special moments with family will come and go. Pretty packages come undone.
All the sights and sweet moments of Christmas simply can’t hold true joy, peace, and hope. They are found solely in a person—Jesus.
In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming Messiah. He wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)
But why all the darkness? What made the world strikingly dark?
Darkness and the Light of Christmas
The book of Romans provides an answer.
Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and sin is a problem because – as Romans 6:23 says – “the wages of sin is death.”
Anyone who loses a loved one knows exactly the darkness of death. It never is right. It’s nothing to celebrate. Death is proof of a dark and deeply corrupt world. According to Genesis 3:19, death is the curse of man’s sin.
But Jesus is our hope because in John 12:46 he said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
Jesus is the way out of darkness.
He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is life for those who believe, and the promised life is for both now and a future glory (Romans 8:11 and 8:23).
Jesus came so that we might have life. That’s the whole reason we celebrate Christmas – it’s a holiday to marvel and wonder at the “incarnation,” which is the fancy theological term for Jesus entering into this world in human form.
Joy, Peace, and Hope
When you lose a loved one, it’s easy for despair to settle in. It pursues your hope and can cloud your days in darkness.
I remember Christmas that year, the year my dad died. I’d replay memories of him in my mind, expecting these memories to somehow resurrect him from the dead. My hope was in myself, which left me in despair.
The truth is, my mind was in all the wrong places.
Perhaps you can relate. Hopelessness will run rampant unless you believe in Jesus. He alone has the power to conquer your despair.
In John 12:46 Jesus said that whoever believes in him would not remain in darkness. The way out of despair is Jesus. He is the way.
Believe that he is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25, Romans 10:9), and believe in a future glory, when we will be set free from corruption (Romans 8:21).
In Romans 15:13 the apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Though you may be celebrating a first Christmas without a loved one, you can know true joy, peace, and hope. They are found only in Jesus. Look at him with an unwavering gaze. Not only can he sympathize with your loss (Matthew 14:10-13 and John 11:32-35), he can be the hope in your despair.
Sandra Bretschneider lives in Florida with her husband and three young daughters. She founded the online ministry He Gently Leads You, which aims to encourage and equip moms to spend consistent time in God’s Word. You can read more about Sandra and her last special moment with her dad here. Also, make sure to subscribe to the newsletter here.
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