By Rev. Catherine Stark-Corn, Minister to Children and Families
“Three in five,” my oldest son, home from college for the holiday, says to me as I make dinner and he hangs out with me in the kitchen. I ask what he means, assuming it is some statistic related to something he is gazing at on his phone. He looks up at me and says, “You know, this will be another holiday season with one less grandparent. We have lost three of ours in five years.” I stare at him, taking it in, doing the math in my head yet it is not the numbers I am calculating. Truly it is the losses, the visits we won’t have to divide between numerous homes, the conversations subtracted from the holiday week, the addition of supplemental gifts we give the boys to cover the absence of three grandparents, the multiple times memories of Christmas at my parents’ or New Year’s with my husband’s dad come rushing into my mind.
This time of year can be filled with such excitement, anticipation and fun yet the emphasis on family can also be painful. We gather to celebrate the mystery of the birth of Christ, perhaps in the shadow of the loss of one not present to the celebration. It can be eased when we know we are not alone. I am reminded of Ann Weems poem in her book Kneeling in Bethlehem, part of Yesterday’s Pain speaks to me.
Some of us walk in Advent
Tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
The pain still stabbing, The hurt still throbbing
It’s not that we don’t know better;
It’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves
On the way to Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?
On our way to celebrate the birth of Christ we journey together in this family of faith. On Sunday mornings we lift up our voices to pray and to sing, we pass the cup and loaf, we stand to greet one another in the peace of Christ and in that moment we may be reaching out to one who needs a hand on this journey.