These words are for anyone who is having a tough time this Christmas because they have lost a loved one. It could be a recent loss or one from years past. My hope is that these words of scripture with my thoughts added to them will meet someone in their place of need. May the peace of Christ be with you.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
A candle in the window has long been a symbol of hope. It lets us know that someone is home, waiting up for us. Inside there is warmth, shelter, and sanctuary. A candle in the window is a symbol of hope from the inside out as well. It is a beacon offering a siren call to the one we miss who is too long away and never forgotten.
We light candles now, even though we do not have to. There is something about the limited glow, the warm feeling, and the wisp of smoke that signals a departure that connects with us deep inside. We light candles in community, or in the longing for, or anticipation of, someone coming to enjoy the glow with us. Yet sometimes our anticipation is answered with silence. Sometimes we are left with the knowledge that he or she simply is not coming back. So we light candles in the defiance of darkness, even though we know it will never go away.
Grief is like that. It never truly goes away. We want to believe that there are a set number of stages that if we work real hard and check them off the list we will be done with it. We can get over it. We can move on with closure. Yet I would suggest that grief is a little messier than that. I would also suggest that it is a little more valuable than that.
A friend once told me that she felt grief was like a walk on the beach. The sound of the surf is always there. Sometimes it calls to you, and you have to let it roll over your toes. Sometimes the tide comes in when you least expect it and knocks you over.
The holidays can be like that. A box opens up and old wounds become new. We summon up our courage and we smile, but not without a wince of pain. Yet for those who believe, somehow the Christ enters into this space that has been opened inside of us. He does not come like an elf or a fairy that takes the pain away. Instead he enters in to help us bear it.
Paul’s words about imperishability remind us that we must put on that which does not go away. The joy, the sadness, the unspoken words, and the words we wish had never been said - all of these remain imperishable. That is actually a good thing, and I’ll tell you why.
It has been said that sorrow carves the cup that contains our joy. That is why grief is so very valuable. Grief is a testimony to the depth of affection we have felt and to our capacity to love. In the end, only love remains. Only love allows us to experience the imperishable.
So we, in our earthly, perishable forms may put on imperishability through our knowledge that there is something of our loved ones and our losses that remains. We, in our earthly, perishable forms may put on imperishability when we pass from this life because of the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ! We, in our earthly, perishable forms have hope in the knowledge that we will once again be joined with our loved ones in such a way that grief itself becomes an item in a scrapbook to cherish and remember.
For death has certainly lost its sting, and the work of bearing our earthly sorrows has an end. For now we carry them with joy, full of the knowledge of Christ’s redeeming love, and to God be the glory, now and always. Amen.