Saturday, December 14, 2013

Choosing to celebrate Christmas


The Christmas holidays are often the most difficult for a widow. Her sense of loss is keenly felt and she is more aware of her loss than at other times.

The 8th chapter of the book of Nehemiah tells the story of the children of Israel rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by their enemies. It was hard, arduous work, made harder by the taunting of the enemy which discouraged the people.  Ezra, the priest, read the Word of God to them and they began to weep. As widows you, too, have been brought to sorrow and tears over loss in your life. But, though weeping and sorrowing is necessary, it isn't the last message that God has for you. God had Nehemiah speak to the people saying, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Then all the people went away to eat and drink…with great joy." Their sorrow was turned to joy as a result of their obedience to celebrate with joy.

Did you notice in the above verse that Nehemiah urges the people to send portions of food to those who didn't have? Invariably, that is the result of those who find their lives beginning to heal. They begin to reach out to others. In fact, I believe that reaching out to others is a catalyst to one's own healing,  something that Dotti Ackerman, founder of Friends Needing Friends, has always emphasized.

In Nehemiah, the 13th chapter, we see that, after an absence, Nehemiah returned and found the people had slipped back into some of their worldly ways and he set out to restore them.  I see his return as a sign of God's grace and restoration, no less true for the widow.  You, too, went through a period of great sorrow after the death of your spouse. Then you began to heal, and you found that you could find some joy in life again.  But now as you approach the Christmas season, you do so with apprehension, grief, and a flood of memories about the "old days" and your time-honored family traditions.  Jesus wants to restore you to wholeness and give you a reason to celebrate again just as He did the Israelites. But, just as they, you must choose to focus on, not just the birth of our Lord, but to what his life, death, and resurrection have won for you and that is eternal life. Can you do this without Christ's strength? No! But here is the paradox: The joy of the Lord is your strength. Choose to rejoice, to look at what you have instead of your losses, and to look ahead to eternal life with Christ and your loved one. There are important ways in which celebration will not, and cannot, ever be the same again. So, it is okay to plan for them to be different. Be realistic about what you can handle, both physically and emotionally.  But do celebrate, for this is God's will for you and you will marvel at the strength He will provide as His joy floods your heart.

Shari Hervold