Christmas Joy in the Midst of Grief

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38–39, NASB) 

One of my most memorable Christmas experiences goes back to 1989. It was a snowy subzero season with frozen lakes already formed in Madison, Wisconsin, at my brother’s house. It was seven months after my stepfather died unexpectedly during surgery for elective hip replacement.

My brother and I were both ordained seminary grads and were well trained to realize that this first Christmas without Ed was an important time to minister to our mom. However, we were both colossal failures in our misguided attempts. We focused on Christmas at the exclusion of talking about Ed. This of course only denied the reality and made a difficult time even more unbearable with superficial cheer.

Actually, many of my Christmas seasons have been in the midst of grief. I spent every Christmas but one with my father-in-law for thirty-five years. His father died on Christmas Eve when he was only twelve years old. Christmas for my father-in-law was a constant reminder of the hole in his soul that resulted when his own father was taken from him.

For so many of us this year, human grief will challenge our time of joining in singing “Merry Christmas” with others. Is it really possible that there can be true Christmas joy in the midst of true human grief? Seven years after failing so badly with our grieving mother, I heard a Christmas sermon by Tim Keller that highlighted the biblical truth that both Christmas joy and human grief can and should coexist.

“Three Reasons for Joy if Christmas Really Happened”

I.     Our bad things will turn out for good

II.    Our most truly good things can never be taken away from us

III.  Our best things are yet to come

As we learn from Romans 8:38–39, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That fact is a reason for joy at Christmas and always!