Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our tribulation,
that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ~
So many memories flooding my mind during this Christmas season. It began when my sister helped me put up the Christmas tree; while looking through the boxes of Christmas ornaments, I found some that Mom made for me over 30 years ago. We talked the night away reminiscing about our family gatherings, mom and I making tamales, and the ornaments. When she left the next day, more memories came to mind.
I brought out my photo album and began looking through family photos: birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s—it seems we celebrated something almost every month. We were a large family—eight siblings, of whom three were married and had children, so the house was full and noisy!
Christmas was special; there was a different “atmosphere” when we were all together eating tamales, laughing or crying when opening gifts, or messing around, like in this photo.
With my brother’s sudden passing, these gathering times became more difficult as each one of us struggled with grief. But, I found that in all these memories a chord of love bound us tightly and prepared us for the times when we were not all together.
Christmas of 1988 was the first time our family was incomplete. My brother, Santos, went home to Jesus that July. My mom went home in 1996, and my dad in 2012. There’s no way of “escaping” the memories from Christmas past, my parents and brother and his family are an integral part of them.
It’s been 28 years since Santos went home, 20 years with Mom, and four years with Dad. But throughout the years, the Lord comforts and gives us the assurance of seeing them again.
I was sharing with Noah and her friend about how my mom and I used to spend all day on Christmas Eve making hundreds of meat, bean, sugar, and plain tamales, and then reaping the benefits of the day by enjoying the delicious aroma while they steam-cooked and the savory delight in eating them that evening.
I spoke of how we gathered at my parents house and how Don and his mom got to enjoy the tamales we made. Noah wished she could have tasted one, “Couldn’t you have frozen a couple of them for two years, so I could have tasted them after I was born?” I wish I could have.
The house we currently live in belongs to a beloved mother who went home to Jesus this year. Throughout the months that we have been here, mail continues to come addressed to her and we pass it on to them. When the first Christmas card for this beloved mother and grandmother arrived, the fact that Christmas for these friends would be difficult struck a painful chord in my heart. Remembering how we felt that first Christmas without a beloved family member, I prayed for the Lord’s comfort for all of them.
I encourage you to pray for someone you know who is grieving a loved one; pray for them not only during Christmas, but throughout the entire year. You see, they’ll be missed on birthdays, anniversaries, during all holidays and other gatherings; also, little things (a song, a place, an item) will remind them of their loved one(s). Ask the Lord to guide you in comforting another through prayer; or perhaps through a hug, a card, or a quiet time of listening to them speak of their loved one. Trust me, they’ll appreciate the time you spend with them.
Dear Father, we’re most thankful for Your precious gift, Jesus, Your only beloved Son. Because of Him, we have a living hope and a future—eternity with You. It’s during this time of year that Christmas memories come flooding into our minds and hearts, and when a loved one is no longer with us, we grieve. Help us to comfort others with the same comfort we’ve received from You; we can share in the sorrows of those who have experienced loss by praying for Your presence and comfort to be with them—”Immanuel, God with us.” In Jesus’ most precious name, we lift our family, friends, and others who are grieving right now, and ask Your presence and love to comfort them. And if some don’t know You, in Your mercy and love, reveal Yourself to them, that they too may have a living hope and a future. Amen.