The reality of grief is that death darkens our life for a while. For some, life may seem like an emotional and spiritual place of endless, eternal night. At its essence, Christmas is about the light of the world. When all the things and rituals and celebrations of this world are over and done, the sacred, unreturnable gift of Christmas is God’s love, the everlasting light that shines into every dark corner of our heart.
Grief is a shadow that obscures our life for a while, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” (Psalm 23:4 RSV). The shadow the overcomes us when one we love dies often seems so dense it’s hard to see anything other than the deep darkness of our pain and sorrow. Yet within every of shadow there is light. Without light there can be no shadow. We make our way through the valley of the shadow of death because of the certainty of light, the assurance of God’s light, the light we seek at Christmas.
When we grieve at the holidays, sometimes the most difficult part of seeking the light is managing the darkness. Unlike gradations of light, dark is dark, darkness is darkness, and in darkness there is no light. As Christmas nears, if you find yourself with the drapes drawn, the lamps off, and the bed covers over your head, it may be the time to ask for help.
When we’re overwhelmed by negative emotions and immobilized by grief, especially at the holiday season, it’s the better part of self-care to seek out someone who will guide you back into the light – a counselor, a therapist, a trained clergy professional, or someone you know and trust with the well-being of your soul and spirit. We become victims of our grief if we choose to live in darkness.
Just as there’s no one experience of loss, there’s no one experience of light. Light shines in quiet meditation. Light shines in moments of prayer and thanksgiving. Light shines in every act and thought of remembrance and release. And when we light a candle to honor the memory of our loved one, we express our love for the spiritual presence that’s in our heart forever. Our shared light shines brightly, eternally.
When light penetrates our heart with its warmth and goodness we feel again the power of joy - waiting for us, calling to us from the other side of grief, “Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11 NRSV).
Christmas is the celebration of God’s love for mankind in Jesus Christ, the light of the world. At this sacred, holy season we give thanks for the light that shines into the darkness of our grief. We live in the light of hope that there is life beyond our grief. We rejoice in the certainty that death is not the end. God is love. God is light. God is with us. Seek the light.
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.
Ephesians 5:8-10 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the glory of your light. Amen.