Christmas should be a happy time. It should be a time of great relaxation and joy: a time for family and friends to gather, relax, refresh and renew. In a perfect way this is how it should be, but for many, Christmas is not a happy season, but a sad time. We remember those who used to sit at the table and exchange gifts. We remember the funny things they used to do and realize that Christmas will never be the same.
My brother Emory would wait until everyone was seated at the Christmas dinner table, fill their plates, say the grace, get the first mouthful of food, then he would raise a question about something controversial, sit back and watch the entire family go at it with strong opinions and he would just laugh at all of us without saying another word. Emory is gone. He died about twenty years ago. I still think about “Em” at Christmas and all throughout the year.
My mother enjoyed Christmas and having us all together in one place, but she died shortly after Emory. My mother is gone. She used to buy me nice clothes that made me look like a little “Lord Fauntroy.” She would dress Emory like “Super fly” and basically spoiled Steve in lavish fashion. Our gifts have never been the same sense she died. Actually, that’s not true. My wife Denise spoils me with gifts and I try to spoil her in turn. But, my mother is gone.
My little sister Sarah suffered a stroke when she turned two years of age. From that point on she could not walk, talk, hear or see. At Christmas while the rest of us sat around opening gifts and eating together, Sarah would just lie on the floor on a blanket in front of the fireplace, virtually oblivious to everything else that was going on. Sarah died several years ago. Even though she just lay on the floor during the Christmas celebration, now that she is gone, no one has been able to take her place.
My father has remarried and been with his current wife, Doris for twenty years. He can barely walk, so we bring Christmas to him and her. Our two sons are grown. One lives in California. The other threatened to spend this Christmas in California with his brother. The thought of him not being with us was unsettling because in his young adult life there is a certain vibrancy and energy that is so exciting and contagious. This Christmas Eve after the church prayer service, several of his friends came over to our house. They crowded into the kitchen-breakfast room-dining room area and had a ball. I don’t think the last person left our home until 3:30 or four AM.
The point I am making is that life goes on. Our Christmas has changed. The original family I embraced as my own has a new composition. My father has a new wife of twenty years. Emory, my mother and Sarah are dead. My sons are grown and no longer look forward to Santa coming down the chimney, but we still have a delightful time.
Where am I going with all of this? My learning in the evolving Christmas experience of my family is that life goes on. People live, grow and die. Some divorce and leave the family. Others choose to stay away and not show up, but life goes on without them. We still have a ball. It’s just a different type of ball. Through it all I seek the consolation that only Jesus can bring. Like the psalmist in Psalm 42, in the quiet of the night I sometimes reflect in sadness about those who are no longer in the family circle. I miss them, but life goes on. I live in the hope that one day I will see them again in heaven. For the one who have separated themselves from the family, I hope and pray that they will come back to the Christmas table before we die.
Psalm 42: 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. 
Questions for Reflection:
- What encouragement do you offer to people who are sad during Christmas?
- What Bible verses would you use to help a person who is sad at Christmas?
- What encouragement would you give to a person who is sad at holiday time because of the death of a loved one?
Lord, help me to acknowledge the sting of sadness I feel at Christmas time. When the entire world seems happy and bright, carols are sung, lights are shining with so many colors of red, yellow, blue and green, gifts are exchanged, children are excited and joy is in the air, but deep inside I feel a pain that will not go away. I should be happy, but I keep thinking of Christmases gone by. I keep thinking about the people who have meant so much to me who are no longer here. Some are dead. Some do not want to be around. I think about their laugh. I think about their smile. I think about the funny things they used to do. I think about those who used to get on my nerves but now I miss them because they are nowhere to be found. I think about the good times we used to have. Lord, restore my joy. I know I cannot bring the dead back to life, but what I seek is a restoration of joy. Like a deer panting for water, I thirst for your grace, your mercy and your love. Help me never to forget the people I love who have meant so much to me. Take away my sadness and show me new joy. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Nicholas Hood III
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III can be found at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
More about Nicholas Hood III Ministries at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ps 42:11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.