Many of you know I lost my daddy this past September, the 17th to be exact. In the immediacy of his passing, I struggled to find the words to express how I was feeling. That is a funny thing for a preacher, for a wordsmith, to be at a loss for the words. Well, it wasn’t so much for words, but the right words. I was searching for the words that would give the proper weight to this loss in my life. It was more than sad, that was too shallow. It was more than a deep grief, that just seemed inadequate.
This was a man that shaped me, encouraged me, and loved me my whole life. This was a man that taught me the value of faith; as a parent and as my senior high Sunday School teacher. This was a man that I cannot remember a single moment of my life without his presence and support. And now he is gone. I know he is not gone from me forever, I know and believe what my faith has taught me that he has finished his race here on earth. But none of that touched the pain and loss I felt at his passing. Words…I needed words.
Then one day I received a letter from a colleague of mine. In it, he said he was sorry and that he would pray for me. But it was the last of his three lines that really struck me. He said, “This is a big deal.” That was it! Those were the words for which I had been searching. My daddy’s passing is a big deal. Those words, and all they implied, resonated with me.
With my daddy’s passing, I have entered the year of firsts; first Thanksgiving, first summer vacation, first birthday, and the list goes on and on. Those moments, those firsts, where I will be here and my daddy will not. One of those firsts is staring me directly in the face, the first Christmas. This one will be tough, for so many reasons, least of which is that he was the one that handed out the gifts on Christmas morning.
Several years ago, I started a tradition of offering a Blue Christmas service each December. This year we will offer this service on December 16th at 3:30pm in the Sanctuary. This is a service where people can come together and acknowledge the grief and loss they are dealing with in their life. Whether that be a loss of a loved one, a relationship, a chapter that is closing, or any other situation. These losses are hard…and they are a big deal.
This year, this service will be different for me. For many of you that have experienced loss, you have felt those difficult emotions in your own life. This service gives us as the church the chance to lament those losses, feel whatever emotion we experience as a result of it, and at the end of it share those feelings with God and acknowledge the hope we have in Christ Jesus.
Over the years I have come to see this service as a truly tender and sacred time. It means different things to different people, depending on their situation. But when we conclude the service and we come forward, write down our loss on a blue Christmas ornament and hang it on the tree as we ask for God to walk with us through it, there is something about that moment.
I want to encourage each of you to look around at the people in your lives and if you know of someone, including yourself, that could benefit from this service, please invite them. Invite them, offer to come and sit with them, and offer to sit with them afterward. One of the greatest means God has to share his love and presence with humanity is us.
While this time of year brings great joy to so many, it also brings difficult feelings to others. I pray each of us can be that vessel by which we can sit in the "blue" and share the hope of Christ with another person this year. May we be that light of Christ, in Advent, and all the year long!
Have a great week!