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Christmas Mourning

 

Grandma smelled like comfort and cold cream when she hugged me. I can’t open a bottle of Pond’s in public because one whiff reminds me that she’s not here anymore. The slip-slip of her feet on linoleum in the morning, the perfectly crustless PB&J sandwiches that she made me, her church hats and bright suits. Gone.

 

Grandma smelled like comfort and cold cream when she hugged me. I can’t open a bottle of Pond’s in public because one whiff reminds me that she’s not here anymore. The slip-slip of her feet on linoleum in the morning, the perfectly crustless PB&J sandwiches that she made me, her church hats and bright suits. Gone.

The cadence of her voice when she scolded me, or, ninja-like under the strict eye of my mother, scored me some peppermints. Gone. Her faithful and tone-deaf hymn-singing morning and evening. She unwittingly taught me the words of great songs of the faith, even if I didn’t learn the melodies until later.

Cocoa powder, stirred in frothy, hot milk, but without the sugar. The shock of rich bittersweetness that goes down warm, but thick. Christmas, with its beauty, worship, and goodness, can still be difficult to digest because of notes of bereavement, loneliness, and disappointment. 

My grandmother won’t be sneaking peppermints to my son. My husband will never know how proud his dad would be of his strength of character, and tenderness with his own son. Some beautiful friends of mine will have to contend once again with traditions of mistletoe and New Year’s Eve kisses, sticking in the craw of their loneliness, implying that they are incomplete without the husband and the children.

These are punch-in-the-gut reminders that we live in the time between Advents. Times of “Thy kingdom come [right now, please!], Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” because the present circumstances of affliction that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 4 seem anything but light, or momentary, and heaven is far, far away.

We are incomplete. All of us. Christmas on this side of Jesus’ birth is a Grand Ellipsis, an uncomfortable and prolonged inhale, an ache for God to be once more with us, face to face.

Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 4 in light of eternity, because the present was hard to bear. 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 makes that clear. Christmas brings our hope into stark clarity; what do we believe about this boy child born of a virgin? What does our future hold beyond the thick bittersweetness?

Resurrection and return. 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 says: “But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believed; therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak. We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence.”

We will be raised and brought into the presence of Jesus. Again: We will be raised and brought into the presence of Jesus.

We believe, therefore we must speak: Yes, we are all incomplete, yes, we are on the side of things where the loss of loved ones and the death of dreams are all too common; yet, we have the words of life.

Christmas is an opportunity to be mindful that there are hurting, grieving people all around us, whom we have the privilege of comforting, validating, and encouraging (even as we, perhaps, suffer the same affliction). We can rob trite traditions of their power with a word of truth, adorning the hurting with the light of hope, scattering darkness. Jesus himself invaded the earth in the midst of silence and darkness, after a Grand Ellipsis. He enters our darkness, too, a Great Light of hope, once wrapped in swaddling clothes, once wrapped in grave clothes, and coming again to wrap us in fresh, gleaming righteousness. We are not abandoned. He’s coming back.

There would not be resurrection without death. As I mourn the 14th anniversary of the loss of my grandmother this Christmas season, I believe the weight of the joy of our reunion in glory will render this present grief as momentary, light and, finally, gone.

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Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.

7 Comments

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    Shannon

    *sigh*

    You're making me cry, and miss your grandma this morning…and I never even got the privilege of meeting her. Last night I heard a song dedicated to veterans, and just. like. that. there were tears for missing pop-pop, crochetyness and all (is that even a word?). Living between Advents..longing to see Him, can't wait to meet your grandma when we finally do.

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      Sharifa Stevens

      yes. *sigh*

      Some days it just hurts, and some times the grief just attacks, guerilla-style, after a song or a scent, or…something.

      When we are with Him, I wonder if our joy will be just as tactile and sensory as our grief is now?

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    Christy McFarland

    Great words …

    … to read this morning. A reminder of what I know and feel, as well as the hope that we have!

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    jcramer

    Grand Ellipsis

    I resonated with that: Grand Ellipsis. We are all waiting. And in waiting, hope can be elusive. Thanks for the reminder (with so many wonderful images of your grandmother) that reunions are still possible …

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    Lenita Dunlap

    In tears, comforted

    Sha,

     

    Per usual, you now how to say things that really hit home, the Lord has givien you an amazing gift, your words are encouraging and I cry as I reflect upon my loved ones and pray for others as I see them mourn.  What a reminder to to love especially at this time of the year.  xoxoxox

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    Annie C

    Christmas Mourning…it

    Christmas Mourning…it finally has a name; that aching empty feeling of missing Poppie, my bloved grandfather, and Billy (my "make-believe Daddy"), a dear friend who showed me what the love of a father was really supposed to be like; the ache of seeing friends delight in Christmas with their precious children, knowing I will never  have my own;  the strangeness of feeling like a 3rd wheel in the homes of those I choose to spend my holidays with b/c my own family is too toxic. In the midst of all this joy and laughter, in the blessing of having a place to go instead of being alone, there is still that little tug at my heart strings reminding me "this is not your home", and longing for the day when I will be forever home with Him. O come, o come, Emmanuel. The Hope of Heaven made possible by one tiny babe who would live in perfect obedience to God and make the way for us to see heaven for ourselves one day. Blessings to you, my friend!

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