This past Sunday we had the most beautiful Advent service of songs and scripture readings, plus my poem that I was blessed to recite. Everything was perfect, even when it wasn’t quite. This inspiring service was the brainchild of one of our worship team leaders, Alex, who is a gifted musician and beautiful soul.
Alex didn’t get to experience the fruit of her labors of planning and organizing. The week before, her mother passed away back in her home state of Texas, and Alex spent Sunday at a celebration of her mom’s life instead of at the celebration of the birth of Jesus that she had worked so hard to plan.
In the merriment of the service, there was a bit of melancholy knowing what Alex was going through. We said a prayer for her.
I can relate to her loss. The last time I saw my mom was Thanksgiving 1987. Christmas that year was spent with my husband’s side of the family. Then on January 3, 1988 my mom passed away. It wasn’t really unexpected, and yet I didn’t fully expect her to be gone so soon. I’m sure Alex didn’t expect to lose her mom so soon either.
We lose loved ones all year long, and yet the parents, siblings, children, and friends who die during the season of joy and merriment between Thanksgiving and the New Year seem the most difficult to deal with.
There is a certain level of merriment that is expected in response to the greetings “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” and the like. Christmas carols and bright lights, the hustle and bustle of preparations, almost demand we be joyful. And there is much to be joyful about when we ponder the birth of Jesus, of our Emmanuel.
Many times in the 32 years since my mom died, I’ve felt the true merriment of the season, especially when my son was young. Other times, like two years ago, the melancholy can all but obliterate any joy the season might otherwise bring.
Most years I live through the winter months in a teetering balance of melancholy merriment.
Being in this state of emotional tension reminds me that others may be teetering too, and that perhaps they are struggling to keep the scales from tipping toward hopeless depression. It reminds me to be kind, to give a little grace to those I encounter each day.
If that’s you, teetering desperately, feeling the weight of expectations, know these three things:
- You are loved (see John 3:16);
- It’s okay to cry (see John 11:35); and
- You are not alone (see Matthew 28:20).
I’m praying for you, that you will find a balance of melancholy merriment too, and that the Light of the world will sustain you.