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Advent Devotional December 20: Written by John Unger in 1995

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Christmas of 1991 lives in my memory as a world pulled asunder. We were in the first crushing weeks following the December 1 accidental death of our 17-year-old son, David. With a sharpness that I thought was gone, David’s death had brought back the memory of our daughter, Cathy, who died two days after Christmas many years before. 

Three children...now one. Two abruptly gone, each in the heart of the holiday season. Thank God for stalwart Dan who, staggering under the load of his own loss, came home from Spain to staunch the hemorrhaging of our parenthood from his amputation of the soul. I stumbled through those days in a crimson mist, mocked by every suggestion that joy and Christmas were in any way connected and cringing at the sight of Christmas stockings and all they represented. 

In looking back to discover how I survived, I have discovered a gift that was totally unrecognized at the time. The gift is grief. Grief is a gift from God… a mysterious one, to be sure, but one to be profound. Holiday sorrow and emptiness in the loss of my loved ones defines and gives form to the love I had for them in life. Grief and love… one cannot exist without the other. When I cry in the night over the loss of one I love, I sing a primal love song that needs no words to tell its story. 

And so for those many of us who have suffered loss in recent years or are aware of impending loss, and who are realizing that the advent of the holiday is feeling less like joy and more like dread, my advice is to hang on. Look for the laughter, but make room for the tears. Savor the whole experience...in it lies healing. Acknowledge the pain, but also the loving relationships from which it springs. Remember that God who demonstrated His infinite love for us in Christ, whose birth we celebrate, is the same God who holds us in His arms through the valleys.


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