Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
Healing processes are not pretty until the end. For example, a cut on the hand takes you through pain, bleeding, scabbing, and scarring before it clears up. Grief, too, goes through awkward or ugly phases like denial, anger, bargaining, and deep sadness before acceptance comes. So mourner, you are not crazy, just healing.
To heal from loss, tell the story to a caring listener. For telling the story enfleshes grief from the skeletal list of stages above to form a singing and preaching you. It honors you and the one you lost, putting you both back together in memory and in life. Then you notice God’s signature on your hand.
The Christmas story emerged as a critical event in the narrative of a grieving nation, a collective mourner. After her birth in covenant promise and liberation from slavery, Israel knew glory days led by larger-than-life King David and his son, Solomon, who established Israel as a nation among nations, a power to reckon with. Then came the descent: the division into north and south, the northern kingdom’s annihilation by ruthless Assyria, then after a few more generations, the exile of Judah’s elite after brutal decimation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
The Christmas dream started during the decline’s latter years, and nobody expressed it better than Isaiah. Notice how hope for the mourner emerges in these words we sing this season:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from
this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (Isaiah 9:2-7).
So Judah returned, and in time Christ came, Immanuel, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). In turn, God’s story continues among us, full of strife and grace, moving toward redemption.
If you walk in darkness, if memories and fears of conflict, pain, and death haunt you, if you are far from home or wonder if you have a home, then mourner, commit your story to God’s larger story. Relinquish it in prayer. Then wait. Listen to your life, and hear God’s telling. Reclaim Christmas.