Practicing Waiting: How I Deal with Loss at Christmas

I’m new to this whole celebrating Jesus’ arrival at Christmas thing. But I love it. And I love the practice of waiting encouraged during Advent, embracing the tension of almost but not yet.

I read a friend’s Facebook status yesterday about how hard the holidays are this year, her first without her dad, and I sighed, knowing how many hearts break during this season of family reunion. I know because mine does. Every year.

When I was eight years old my grandmother died of cancer. She died on December 21st. Her viewing was on the 23rd. Her funeral on Christmas Eve. Even at eight, I was devastated. Even now, I miss her.

My brother Bobby died on December 13th, driving home to Florida from college in Tennessee, eager to celebrate the holidays with our family. I remember Christmas songs playing in the car on the way to the viewing.

I miscarried my first baby in a taxi cab in New York City, driving home from Rockefeller Center. It was my first time to see the Christmas tree in all its giant, brilliant glory.

Obviously, I have Christmas baggage. And for years, that’s the way I saw it—as stuff I had to get past in order to enjoy the season. Hard times to put out of mind as I tried to embrace joy in the present.

Eventually I came to a place where I just tried to remember the good times, the wonderful Christmas memories shared with people I love. And that was healthy, I think.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about advent, about the days leading up to the moment of God’s appearing. I’ve been trying to feel what the Israelites must have been feeling, all that anticipation. 

And I’ve found this feeling pretty easy to manufacture. Because I know first hand about almost but not yet.

Christmas reminds me that one day I’ll be with my family again. That soon, God is going to come. And that when He arrives all the waiting will be swept away by an explosive, joy-soaked celebration. And God’s children will experience an epic reunion.

Every year at Christmas, looking around at my beautiful, smiling family, I remember that a better Christmas is coming. That one day, I’ll celebrate Jesus’ arrival with every person in my living room and every person who’s missing, too. That we will all celebrate together. Forever.

But not yet.

It’s Advent. And I’m waiting. And waiting is hard.

But knowing what I’m waiting for makes even the waiting wonderful.