Christmas in a Tough Year

This page was written on November 21, 2001, but its message is relevant for anyone facing Christmas in a tough year.

This year (2001) has not been a very good year for our family. Mom fell sick in February and spent several days in the hospital with a severe infection; she has been in a nursing home ever since. Wendi’s mother passed away in July from cancer. Dad passed away from stomach cancer on the last day of August. Then the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11. To add to the mess, by eldest brother’s girlfriend lost her father only a few days after that.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer. TV shows and commercials depict families gathering and having a good time. Last year, our family got together at our parents’ house for the last time. Most of us thought it might be so, but none of us knew for sure. Now the house is up for sale, so our family will not meet there for Christmas anymore.

As the Christmas season approaches, I can’t help but think about the families of those who perished in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Losing a loved one in such a horrible tragedy would certainly put a damper on the holidays. We need to pray for those people.

Many people this year will determine to celebrate Christmas just like any other year, with all of its trimmings and festivities. For most, this is probably a good idea, because holiday traditions tend to give us a sense of security, that nothing has really changed, that we are still the same people and can observe the holidays much the same every year. But for our family, and for those who lost part of their families in the attacks, celebrating the same as always will be impossible for obvious reasons. What then?

Well, for starters, we’re getting together at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving this year. It’s the first such gathering in quite a few years. When I first heard about this, I was somewhat disappointed, because I was looking forward to our own new tradition: spending Thanksgiving at home, just the three of us. But the more I think about it, the more I find myself looking forward to spending the day with the rest of the family. I think we need each other’s company at a time like this.

So far (as of November 21), what our family will do for Christmas remains a mystery. But I have already determined that whatever holiday plans are laid out, I, along with my wife and son, will endeavor to make the best of them. We know that things will never be the same again. We are fully aware that the memories of Christmases past will haunt us this year and in the future. But we pray that those memories will inspire us to move forward with our lives, and to make new memories with each passing year.

After all, Christmas itself is a memorial. Jesus Christ was born over 2,000 years ago, but his life, death and resurrection impact us to this very day. So let’s remember Him this Christmas as we celebrate. May your holiday season be a peaceful and joyous one indeed.