As our highstreets become lined with festive lights and Christmas commercials flood our TV screens, we are in no doubt that the festive season is upon us. Many of us will be looking forward to the annual church party or the extended break from work or studies, to enjoy family, friends and food! But for some, Christmas time can give rise to feelings of fear, grief and sadness.

My earliest memories of Christmas are happy ones. I remember I was delighted at being cast as sheep number two’ in the school nativity play in year four. I loved to decorate the Christmas tree and marvel every evening after school as I came home to find yet another present decoratively wrapped beneath it. I treasured having fun with my large extended family for days on end, until eventually no one could even remember what day of the week it was!

As I’ve grown older, Christmas has become more bittersweet. The grief of loved ones absent but not forgotten. The knowledge that tragedy can come at any time of the year – even Christmas – as I attended the funeral of my beloved uncle on Christmas Eve. Christmas is now a complex emotional time, the mix of nostalgic memories, tainted with the pang of sadness.

As preparations get underway and festivities get into full flow, and carol singers frequent my doorstep, I begin to lament about all those that will not be here to celebrate this year.

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It’s in these moments that I remember that whilst Christmas is a time to come together and that those not here will be missed, I recognise that it is also an opportunity to share with others the​‘reason for the season’. It is a gift to be able to share the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth, celebrating the miracle of God becoming human, meeting us in our broken, messy, imperfect lives. Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, is a beautiful blessing, that ultimately leads to the gift of redemption and eternal salvation with God.

It is a gift to be able to share the beautiful story of Jesus' birth.

Christmas truly serves as a wonderful reminder of how loved and cherished we are by our Saviour and it is this realisation that ushers me from a state of sadness to a state of gratitude, adoration and hope.

I am reminded that the God who sent His only son for me, loves me, cares for me and is with me, even in the midst of my grief. He is Emmanuel, He is God with us. He is Jehovah Nissi, a safe refuge when we feel fearful or unsure of our future due to the loss of a loved one. He is Jehovah Rapha, a healer for the broken-hearted, binding up our wounds (Psalm 147:3). God knows and feels our pain and desires for us to draw near to Him especially at times of grief (Hebrews 7:25) for He is a comforting Father.

As I begin to think of all those I love and miss at Christmas time, I recognise the gift that God granted me to have them in my lives, I thank Him that because of His ultimate sacrifice there is hope that I, one day, will see them again, and I am spurred on to share the gift of salvation with friends and family so that we too can have that assurance, that one day in God’s glory we will meet again.

Prayer for comfort

If you are suffering with grief this Christmas, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you that God is a God of compassion and provides comfort to panicked minds and heavy hearts (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Be assured, He is the same God that in the Bible brought comfort to the poor, the widow, the stranger, the homeless, the desperate and the hopeless, and you have access to that same God today, for the grief you are facing in this season.

And so, I pray, Lord as we lament the loss of loved ones that are no longer here at Christmas time, will you hold our hearts and catch our tears and give us strength and a hope for a brighter tomorrow. Will you make a way where there seems to be no way and will you guide us, lead us and keep us in perfect peace. As we draw closer to you may you create opportunity for us to see you in the faces of others, and may you fill us with a peace and a joy that surpasses all understanding. Amen