When I Didn’t Want Christmas to Come

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A holiday spent in grief helped me to take Christ’s coming more seriously.

In C. S. Lewis’s tale The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia is under a curse in which it was decreed it would “always be winter, but never Christmas.” As we approached the month of December in that first year after our 30-year old daughter died suddenly, I wished it could be just winter and not Christmas all.

The last thing I wanted was to gaze at an empty space at the dinner table, at the gift-opening, at the Christmas stockings hung on the fireplace mantle.

When we have come through the worst, coming up on that first Christmas and later Christmases holds its own kind of anguish. But there is an opportunity there, too, to be driven to the core of the true meaning of Christmas.

We knew Christmas would be difficult, of course. Thanksgiving started out okay. I spoke at our church’s worship service about remembering, and we gathered with friends on Thanksgiving Day as we always do for the meal. But later that day, the void of Eva’s absence hit me hard. Our house felt so empty without her. I wept and wept. That’s when I realized that the cyclical rituals of our lives, like holidays, which we consider “family time,” is when we, the bereaved, face the starkness of our losses.

Christmas is difficult, of course, because that is when we typically gather in our family configurations. In my mother’s house, where we had Christmas for so many years, we were nurtured by the care with which she decorated. From when I was a child she set out the same six-inch painted figurines in a wooden manger: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, an angel, a shepherd, and a few animals. I can close my eyes now and see each figure in detail. The tree was always adorned in the same way. The whole extended …

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