The Pain of Missing Those You Love at Christmas

When Liz and I were pregnant with our first son, my grandmother gave me something very special. She handed me a small, felt-covered box and said, “Your grandfather wanted you to have this.”

I slowly opened the taupe encasement to reveal a small diamond set in a slightly embellished gold band. It was the same ring I had seen on my grandfather’s weathered hand many times before he died—it was his ring.

This year marks fourteen years since Paw-Paw Ham passed away. It’s a melancholy feeling. All that I have left are the memories. In that way, life seems awfully cruel. It allows us to love people only to have them stripped from us as time continues its relentless pursuit.

There will be no more hugs, no more vacations, no more soft chuckles, no more dinners.

And that pain is never more apparent than it is at Christmas.

Embrace Memories

The older I get, the more I understand that my memories are a gift, treasures that exist only within my mind, drawn out by the occasional reminder which brings forth sights, smells, and sounds that have been long-buried beneath the surface.

I cling to these memories for dear life, hoping they don’t fade amid the noise of a busy mind. Charles Dickens was on to something. These are the ghosts of Christmas past.

Too often, these ghosts haunt me and I find myself living in the past, forfeiting the blessing of Christmas present.

So this year, I’m starting a new tradition.

Sadly, my grandfather’s ring stayed in its encasement for years after my grandmother gave it to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the gift, it’s just that those old traditions had grown cold without the warmth of those I loved.

Last week, instead of keeping it locked up, hidden from view, I pulled his ring from its resting place and slid it on my finger. It was a subtle reminder of all that my grandfather instilled in me and all that he hoped for our family.

In that quiet, yet familiar place, I could almost hear Paw-Paw’s soft chuckle coupled with his gentle clap echo throughout the walls of our home. As if he was there with me, smiling, saying, “I am with you”, relishing in the legacy his life had left.

I could feel his presence.

God With Us

As I read the Christmas story this morning, I was overwhelmed by the parallel on the pages before me.

Much like I missed my grandfather, God’s people missed His presence. For nearly four hundred years, God had remained silent. But on that first Christmas, He pierced the veil in an unusual way.

Rather than removing the pain and sorrow and darkness of a broken world, He joined us in it. The Almighty God took the humble form of a baby boy—Jesus.

And in the poverty-stricken shadow of a hillside manger, a light shone for all to see.

It was God’s reminder to His people that He never intended for them to be alone.

In their darkness, on that bleak, mid-winter morn, God was saying, “I am with you.”

This Christmas, perhaps you’re in the darkness, feeling like God has been silent. Perhaps the ghosts of Christmas past are haunting you.

It is my sincere prayer that you would look to the Father with a treasured memory of His humble ascent to join you in your brokenness.

This Christmas and beyond, my grandfather’s ring remains as a testimony of his love.

And the birth of Jesus remains as a testimony of the love of the Father.

A reminder that calls us to embrace the richest gift of all: the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel, God with us.

And because of that gift, the ghosts of Christmas past are forever redeemed, freeing us to embrace the joys of Christmas present.

MH

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