My wife asked me an interesting question today. She asked, “What was your favourite Christmas season ever?”
I had to think. But not for very long. As soon as my mind went back to my childhood, I knew the answer: The Christmases I spent at home with my mom would forever be engraved in my mind as “the best Christmases ever”!
You see, my mom would take charge of everything each Christmas, and she would do a beautiful job. Her goal was to make everyone happy, and she succeeded. We all so looked forward to Christmas at home!
My brother and I were away at university during this stage of our history, and we would chat on the train as we made our way home, remembering Christmases past, reminiscing about how special our mother always made the Christmas season, and looking forward to another such memory-making experience in the upcoming days.
We would anticipate her mouth-watering food. I was the only vegetarian in the family, but besides making a gourmet meal with a stuffed turkey at its centre, she would make a special vegetarian dish for me. As I think back on this, I realize how much of an extra burden it must have been to her to have to essentially make two separate meals: One for me, and one for the rest of the family. Yet she never complained. In fact, it seemed to bring her great joy.
We would of course anticipate the gifts. Our mom always knew what we wanted –and needed — the most, and would arrange for this to be under the Christmas tree. In my adult family, we send around wishlists so that everyone will know what everyone else wants and needs. Not so with my mom. She didn’t need a wishlist! She just intuitively knew what to put under that tree!
And of course, there was the tree itself. My adult family has a beautiful artificial tree as part of our Christmas traditions. Not so with my mom. She would go out and purchase the nicest — and biggest! — real tree to all of Oostende. She would decorate it in the most artistic way I have ever seen, and the way she wrapped presents and placed them under the tree also spoke of the care she put into every part of Christmas.
We would also anticipate our actual family Christmas celebration. Again, it was our mom who took centre stage. She would talk to us about Jesus and about the first Christmas. She would share memories of Christmases past. She would say such beautiful things that would make us all feel loved and special. We had so much fun.
Yes, Christmases at home will always be right there as #1 on my list of “best Christmases ever”, and it was all because of my mom. Sadly, my mom passed away about three years ago. For years prior to her death, she had battled severe Alzheimer’s that had robbed her of her abilities to cook and decorate and choose gifts and tell stories. There will be no more Christmases on this earth with her, and thought three years have gone by, I still miss her.
This year, my wife is mourning the passing of her own mom, who died just two days after Christmas last year, and I am sure that so many of you are going through tough Christmases as well, due to the loss of the one(s) who always made it so special. God can relate. He had to spend that very first Christmas without His Son, knowing full well that the tiny baby born in Bethlehem would grow up to be executed on a cruel cross. In fact, Jesus Himself knew this before He ever came to this earth as the Christ child, the baby of Christmas. The Bible records, ” For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Heb. 12:2a NIV). Paul also says of Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8 NLT).
Although Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time, it isn’t always. Take comfort in the fact that even God knows how you feel. I want to encourage anyone who is facing a bitter-sweet Christmas due to the loss of a loved one to face this upcoming Christmas a bit differently this year. I encourage you to spend time thinking about the special Christmases past with your loved one, yes; but I also encourage you to take some time to seriously meditate on the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made to come here as that tiny baby we celebrate. Understand that He knows how you feel, and that He is there to carry you through.
I know that both my mom and my mother-in-law are in Heaven, celebrating this year with the Christ Child. If your missing loved one knew the Lord, then they, too, are celebrating with the Christ Child! They aren’t sad that they no longer walk this Earth, and neither would they want you to be sad. Though we can’t rejoice with the Christ child, our loved ones in Heaven want us to rejoice in His presence as we celebrate this greatest of births with your family. They want you to remember that Christmas isn’t about them. It is about Jesus.
In His love,