The last thing I wanted to think about on the morning of Christmas Eve was death. Yet there I was, driving into the city to run an errand, tears streaming down my face, missing my mom. Resisting the reality that her earthly death had come 3 years before. In recent weeks I’d watched, through social media, the cousin of my nephew spend last days with her father before he passed through this life completely. She’d shared an authentic and vulnerable account of their last moments with him. Although she and I have never physically met, she quickly became one of my teachers on this earth because of her willingness to let her life happen in fullness. I recalled dialogue with a dear friend just a week ago as she’d told me about her father’s recent end-of-days, hearing in her voice all the strength she’d had to muster just to experience the end of his life with grace and courage. On my heart had weighed the fresh Christmas grief of my own cousins who’d bid farewell to their mother, my aunt, just months earlier. I wanted to feel carefree and content during that drive, to just sing along with the Christmas carols blaring through my speakers.
Instead, grace, mercy, and love wanted to tap me on the shoulder in the form of memories to be cherished, even used to soften this otherwise harsh world.
Yes, sometimes grief is just a not-so-gentle reminder that we’ve given and received grace, mercy, and love in our lives. I decided to let the tears flow, stop resisting, and be mindful of what was placed in my mind on this morning. My emotional strain quickly gave way to warm memories of my mother and how excited she would be around Christmas – mostly because she loved giving to others through the cakes and pies she baked, the joy in the eyes of any children who visited, enamored by all the decorations that donned her home, and the joy in her own eyes when she got to be near her kids and grandkids. I remembered the many times my mom had offered me her grace, her mercy, and her love. When I leaned into this rush of feelings welling up inside me, the tears flowed more easily and they were met with gratitude and a smile as I realized I had been given a choice in how to check in with my soul’s deepest movements. My mom and Christ had a lot in common. They both knew how to move me from a painful place to a much better space.
The cycle of life and death is still a mystery at times. Yet, somehow on Christmas, we choose to accept the most miraculous of lives in Christ’s birth and the most egregious of deaths in His crucifixion. For the Christian faith, it is a celebration. Seems odd, really. We celebrate a day that was so alarming and confusing for a young, virgin girl in the Middle East and then celebrate a day that was, no doubt, full of grief for that same woman as she witnessed the loss of her son on earth years later. The story tells us everything turned out for the best. And what I love about that story is that the main character, Christ, would completely understand my tears on this Christmas Eve morning. Then, He would shift effortlessly with me into celebrating the grace, mercy, and love that my own husband and son give me every day.
Grief requires us to be a vessel for its voice.
Allowing it to be spoken, and felt, washes clean the space through which the best of ourselves can be heard. The grace, mercy, and love others have given me is the best of myself. The story of my Christmas Eve started in sorrow and tears. Remembering that this holiday is a celebration of grace eased my sorrow, making way for His will to be done. On Christmas, I get to celebrate the best in me, the Christ in me. Happy Birthday, Christ. Thanks for using Your birthday as my reminder and celebration of grace.