No matter how poor our hearts feel, we can still give and receive the greatest gift there is - Love.
The Christmas season is heralded in several weeks early, with bright colors and decorations. There is a sense of warmth and cheer being promoted by advertisements and songs. People around us speak of meals with relatives, and family members that will be gathering. Preoccupation with gifts and trips to the stores start to take over.
Contrasting painfully for those of us who have lost a loved one, this time has a unique potential to make our grief and loss resurface. Instead of looking forward to “seeing everybody”, we feel the absence of someone. Instead of gifts and tons of food presenting a sense of abundance, we feel empty inside. Instead of cheer and merriness, we are missing someone so strongly we feel unable to participate in the general joy that everyone else seems to be experiencing. We ache with missing, rather than feeling filled.
It is precisely in moments like this, that our hearts will be helped by considering the first Christmas. It was not marked by abundance but poverty. It was not full of warmth and food but the discomfort of being cold. It did not take place among gathered households, but in hiddenness, in silence. It was not about the material, but about the spiritual. No expensive gifts… but the most precious gift there is – Love.
God is drawn to the poverty of our hearts. As He entered conditions of simple poverty when He came into the world on that first Christmas, I believe that every Christmas since, He enters this world again into the hearts that are most emptied and humbled. Hearts are much like hands… they receive best not when they are full, but empty and open. Love wants to be reborn in these hearts, to comfort them and bless them with His indwelling presence.
During this season of preparation for God’s coming to be reborn in our hearts again, let’s set quiet time aside, (maybe 10 minutes in the morning or before bed) to spend with God and our loved ones. We cannot see them, but they continue to exist, to love, and be a part of our lives. They also have love for us that they may feel unable to pass on to us, because we are unaware and trying to distract ourselves from the pain in our hearts, avoiding silence and stillness.
As empty as our hearts feel when we miss someone we have loved and lost, it is also true to say that our hearts are full of memories and love for that person. Sometimes our built up aching comes from feeling unable to pass on the love we feel for that person to him or her directly. But, as David Keller wisely advises, it is important to continue to “send love” to the person who died, because we need to actively love them wherever they are… which may not be as far away as it feels, if we take a moment to find them in our hearts and be aware of their nearness.
No matter how poor our hearts feel, we can still give and receive the greatest gift there is – Love. I will end by wishing you all a blessed Christmas season and Day, and by sharing with you one of my favorite Christmas carol verses:
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
Maria Miravalle is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at Cornerstone of Hope’s Cleveland Location.