Christmas follows the season of Advent: a time of waiting, a time of hoping, a time of being joyous, time of love and a time of peace. Where does my grief fit into this time? What am I really waiting for? What I am really hoping for is not a possibility. I don't find much to be joyful about and what I love, who I love, is no longer around.
Two years after my brother's death, our family welcomed my nephew who bears my brother’s name. My amazing nephew will never take the place of my brother, but he sure does have a way of loving us, bringing us joy, giving us a sense of peace and a hope for his future and our future as a family. Although Christmas is no longer a time that I anticipate with excitement, my nephew has given Christmas new meaning for us. And our family was blessed to welcome a December baby last year.
I am learning the importance of gratitude. Even when it seems things are not the way I think they should be, I find there is always something for which I am thankful. In the midst of the most difficult times I am surprised what adopting an attitude of gratitude can do.
This year near Thanksgiving, my family learned that my father had cancer. We do not know what the future holds for him but we are very hopeful. Despite the effects of cancer and chemo we can still find joy in those little moments where love abounds and joy surrounds us, those moments in which we are grateful to be a family.
If you find yourself feeling as I do during Christmas time, I hope that you can take a minute for gratitude and find some moments of joy during Christmas. Even in the midst of trials, we can often find one thing, or many things, for which we are grateful. It may be difficult, but it is important.
As people of faith, we know that in the most difficult times Christ is with us. Christ is not causing these difficult times, but Christ stands beside us loving us. The Letter of James 1:2-3 tells us, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” I can tell you from experience, this takes practice, but it is well worth it. If I step back and reflect there is always something to remind me of the presence of Christ who is Emmanuel, “God-With-Us.”
If you find yourself feeling different than others this time of year, know you are not alone! My wish, my prayer for you, is that no matter what you are experiencing, you can feel love, feel hope, feel joy and find peace. Merry Christmas!
Rebekah Flores is the Disability Advocate for the Church of Brethren. She is an ex-officio board member and a field associate for Anabaptist Disabilities Network. Rebekah is a member of the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and serves on the Pastoral Care team. She is also an Auntie to 1 nephew and 2 nieces, as well as a nanny for 3 awesome kids.