This morning I've been thinking about the Christmas of 1999. That was the year my brother David died.
Several days before Christmas my dad called. His statement was stark, void of embellishment, just the naked truth "David's dead". It struck me like a sudden slap, stunned me and I couldn't think. I hung up the phone without asking any questions, went and told the children that Uncle David had died and then called Pete. He asked me a barrage of questions I couldn't answer then I went and sat down by myself. It wasn't long before Grace came and sat with me, held my hand and said some simple words of empathy. Her actions and words wrapped themselves around me like a blanket. I didn't want to move, didn't know if I could, but Christmas was coming, it loomed overhead like a thick purple snow cloud. How were we going to get through it?
Christmas came closer, my parents came, broken and in pain and without David. I wondered how are we going to get through it? My brother Rob, sister-in-law Marian and their children came and again I thought, how?
We got through it. In the midst of our grief we had each other, we had the children and we had hope. We found the spark of joy in the darkness.
Christmas time is no different than any other time of the year when it comes to human suffering.
People die and loved ones grieve.
People suffer loneliness and depression.
Hospitals are busy.
My family had each other and we held each other up. We had the children and they made us smile. We have Jesus and he gives us hope.
There are those who don't have what we have and are shut out of the light and warmth.
The lesson Jesus taught me through my pain is that instead of pursuing the spirit of Christmas there is more meaning in embracing the Spirit of Chirst and praying for and giving to others.
There are so many opportunities to give at Christmas, the local toy and food drive, the Red Cross, World Vision, Compassion, the Salvation Army and perhaps even an extended invitation to Chirstmas dinner.
To quote Jesus ..."the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
Whatever we do is only a small measure of what Jesus did for us but it is still worth doing. If we all do just a few small things there may be a few more smiles and a bit more light this Christmas.
The most wonderful thing about embracing the Spirit of Christ is that he doesn't abandon us after the decorations are down and tree has become compost.