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Last night I put a very special ornament at the front of our tree. It was sent to us two years ago, just weeks after Milly, our dear friends Robyn & Jordan Bles's baby girl had passed away. They encouraged us to put the ornament up each year and remember their girl. I am amazed they had the clarity and insight to create such a thoughtful ritual of remembering in those dark days. 

So last night I put up the ornament and thought of Milly. 

On our way to Appalachian Advent, we listened to a podcast on the bus, of Rob Bell interviewing Caleb Wilde, a funeral home director. He talked about his work of handling the dead and working with their loved ones left behind. He said that we should do a better job remembering our loved ones with concrete symbols that we can see, smell, taste and touch. He reminded us that the work of grief doesn't have a time table and is never "finished." His words were a beautiful reminder that in many ways our loved ones are still with us and that even after someone we love has died, our love for them never dies. He claimed that the boundaries of life and death are not as rigid as our culture portrays them. 

Christmas is a bittersweet season. I think it makes the good things in our lives feel even better, but it also makes the hard parts of our lives seem to shout out louder. It is not unusual that out of nowhere, grief creeps in. At the strangest times, maybe opening a Christmas Card or hearing a familiar song, it appears. It can feel all encompassing: the family member missing, the job lost, the grief of the life you thought you had. 

But this season is about more than tinsel and trees. These secular reminders are pointing us to our most sacred truths: Emmanuel. God is coming. Christ is with us. We are not alone. Change is possible. Life is stronger than death.

On our way home from Appalachian Advent, one of our new members said, "You know, this week I have been grieving my mother's death. She passed away one year ago this month. But I feel like during this time I have gained all these other church mothers." 

And the women on the church bus began to say, "I'll be your church mother! I'm happy to be your church mother. You have lots of church mothers!" 

I said, "And you are now a church mother to my girls." 

Amidst this season of waiting, of remembering, of celebrating and of grieving, let us remember that we are each others' mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren. 

God is coming. God is always coming. May you remember well. May you give yourself time and space to grieve. And, please, never forget- that you are not alone. 



If this article speaks to your spirit, you may want to join us for our "Longest Night" service on December 21:

Longest Night Service: A Service of Healing and Remembrance will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21. Because there is darkness even in a season of hope, First Christian Church is planning a service on the longest night of the year, Dec. 21. For those who dread the holidays, for those who have lost loved ones, and for those who struggle with seasonal depression, join us to acknowledge our pain. Mark Whitley will be leading us in song. 

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