The First Sunday After Christmas

The mention of the death of her parents made me pause. I check the ‘twittersphere’ every second day or so. I don’t know the algorithm of why people whom I don’t follow come into view but this one made me pause as she (a stranger to me) announced that her father had just died (yesterday) and her mother a week earlier. … Yes, that’s tough.

I scrawled through the comments and was flabbergasted at some of them. Some only spoke of their grief for a deceased loved one. One person said that death is inevitable to all of us and we should embrace it open heartedly … be happy about the love you gave and received … and that sadness is not necessary. One person spoke quite intimately (it seemed to me) offering support and then said that they didn’t know each other but was happy
to offer support and give a home phone number if she wanted to talk. I often feel like an alien visiting here because I simply can’t imagine what motivates people to write stuff. Yes, there is stuff that is weird and out
of order to my sensibilities but there is still kindness and wisdom to be seen which is good. Such is theworld. (And it is good that it is not made or run according to me.)

Someone posted a handwritten quote about grief – ‘Grief never ends … but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith … it is the price of love.’ I agree with the sentiments and might have used different words and a few more.

But that death and grief happen at Christmas time shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Of course we’d rather it wasn’t in our face at the moment. And for that the Christian Church with its liturgical calendar doesn’t help! Look at the three days after Christmas. 26th December is the Festival of St Stephen, Martyr (the first Christian martyr). 27th December is the Festival of St John, Apostle and Evangelist, who, according to church tradition, died of old age. 28th December is the Festival of the Innocents, Martyrs, the children of Bethlehem killed for the sake of Jesus. Here we see three faces of martyrdom – Stephen, martyr in deed and in will; John, martyr in will but not in deed; the Innocents, martyrs in deed but not in will. I suppose this
might be a dose of reality for Christians over against sentimentality that might coat Christmas and life – especially if we are affluent. I don’t wish to be dour or a sad-sack – and people might be feeling particularly raw about this year’s ‘COVID-Christmas’ – but if we’re feeling life is dumping on us or we can’t get a break then a respite for a day or two is just that – a respite
– and that’s something at least – but what we very much need is help getting through the days no matter what.

Those Christians martyrs point us to the One who will not and does not abandon us to this world. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’ and they particularly point to Jesus. That’s why Jesus came into our world to be with us, to help us, to support us, to forgive us when we’ve done wrong or not done right, and to give us a perspective or attitude that can face each day

with hope. I believe what I’ve written is true for the best days, the sunshine days, and also true for the worst days – even the day I die. Only in and with Jesus is there this help and meaning in life – in the happiest and toughest of times.