A Grateful Spirit at Christmas

Presently, Christmas music is bringing a festive air to my home. I’m listening to one of my favorite Christmas albums: Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas.” For many of us widows, it even seems that it would be dishonoring to our spouses to be joyful at this season of the year. But despite COVID, unrest in our nation, disappointments, and isolation, we have lots to celebrate this Christmas. Your loss may be recent, and the grief especially deep because Christmas will never again be spent with that someone special. There’s absolutely no “spirit of Christmas” in your home. You may even feel guilty for enjoying a Christmas activity. Your song this Christmas is “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”

Many of the things that professional counselors advise for widows to do to help survive the holidays are not possible this year because of COVID and the recommendations to celebrate in isolation. But COVID can’t hamper a grateful spirit.

Dr. Daniel Amen, a noted American psychiatrist, says, “When you place a priority on the things you’re grateful for in life, your brain actually works better. People who practice gratitude are healthier, more optimistic, make progress towards their goals, have a greater sense of well-being, and are helpful to others.” He recommends keeping a grateful journal. Our journal lists may be different, but I hope your list includes gratefulness for the privilege of knowing the true meaning of Christmas­—that Jesus Christ was born into this world to be our Savior.

There was little for which to be grateful during the time Jesus was born. Many people lived in poverty. Luke’s Gospel tells us that at Jesus’ birth, the Jewish people lived under harsh Roman rule. Joseph was required to go to Bethlehem, the town of his heritage, to register (Luke 2:1). He had no choice, and Mary also was required to go with him even though she was nine months pregnant. But Micah, an Old Testament prophet, had foretold about 700 years earlier that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). So, God was orchestrating everything that was happening. God was in charge, not the Roman rulers.

Do you believe that God is in charge of everything that’s going on in your life, despite your great loss? I’m not saying that God caused your husband’s death, but I am saying that He takes what is bad and works it into something that’s good (Genesis 50:20). It’s not easy to trust our lives to God’s all-knowing power—His omniscience—when we have been shattered by death. I remember sitting in front of a rehab building at a hospital in early January 1991 after Tony’s leg was amputated. Everything we had hoped to do in life was ending. In that dark hour, God gave me a promise that I thought was impossible. In the midst of my sorrow, God was giving me hope for the future. Ten years later, that promise began to unfold.

During this Christmas season, allow God to whisper words of hope to you through His Word or through a word He speaks to your spirit. He is Immanuel—God with us (Matthew 1:22-23) and He is able to bring something good out of your shattered life.