Christmas should be a time of joy, love, celebration, and family. Unfortunately, for many of us, the glitz and color of Christmas are dimmed by the loss of a loved one during the previous year. The family traditions of the holiday season are painful reminders of lost loved ones at Christmas.
For me personally, this Christmas has an empty feeling. Christmas was my son Tim’s favorite time of year. He couldn’t see the decorations because of his blindness, but he enjoyed remembering the trees we had when he was a child and could see. He was in his fifties but still wanted to have his large stocking full of the usual Christmas foods and small toys like a squeeze ball or a bottle of perfume. He loved Christmas music and could sing all of the familiar songs. His sisters frequently sent him singing cards which he played until the batteries wore out.
I share that with you because I know that many of our “regulars” have had a tough year and are missing their lost loved ones at Christmas. Christmas will bring some pain for them, knowing that the usual things we did together can no longer happen. Someone who shared this experience was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the words to a great Christmas song in 1863. Longfellow’s first wife died in childbirth in 1859. In 1861 his second wide died from burns. In 1863 his son joined the Union army and was very severely wounded and near death.
As Christmas approached in 1863, Longfellow composed the poem that is one of our Christmas standards:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on Earth, good will to men. And I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom, had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth good will to men. Still ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men. And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said; for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men.”
If you, like me, are staring at an empty stocking this Christmas, stem the tears by remembering that the story of the baby in the manger ended with an empty tomb. So too will we one day be reunited with the lost loved ones at Christmas we miss so terribly now. With that in mind, have a great Christmas holiday.
— John N. Clayton © 2021