Reflection for ‘Light up a life’ service of thanksgiving and remembrance of loved ones,
5 December 2021.
For many of us, Christmas is marked by spending time with loved ones. It is a time of celebration and joy, of parties, feasts, and family – of annual reunions and shared sacred spaces. Every family and group of friends will have their own traditions, the things that “make” it Christmas for them.
All of which also makes Christmas a time when our loss can seem the greatest, our loneliness and sadness so much more pronounced in contrast to the bright lights of the season. It is painful, because we become more aware of the empty spaces at our feast table, the absence of a certain voice, a gaping wound where our loved one once stood. Everything that was once familiar has now changed, even if (and perhaps because) we follow the same patterns and traditions.
And yet there is hope – a sure and certain hope in the promises of the one whose birth we now remember – that there is life beyond death, that grace transcends all things, that love endures forever.
Our loved ones may be absent from our tables, but they still live in our hearts.
We may no longer hear their voices, but we can still speak of them and keep their stories alive.
Our lives were richer for knowing them, and we can celebrate all that they were and continue to be in significance to us.
In our service today, we remember and give thanks for our loved ones. We celebrate their lives, and unite with them in the light and love of Christ who draws all things together, the one who brings Heaven and Earth together for us.
And today we also give thanks for the work of the hospice movement, and especially St Michaels’s Hospice who work in this area to support patients and their families living with terminal illness.
The Hospice movement approaches care from a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional perspective, seeking to provide physical, emotional, social, and spiritual support. Care is about more than just medical treatment – it is about our emotional and psychological state and responses, our relationships with others, and how we engage with the world and our experiences through the lens of faith. Even as our lives draw to a close, we can find wholeness and healing in the other dimensions of our being.
We are not alone, and our loss does not have to mean suffering – whether we are travelling through illness or grief, there are those who journey alongside us, sharing the burden and supporting us in our weakness.
For all who share their expertise to help us live in wholeness, we give thanks: for doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists, social workers, chaplains and counsellors. For our friends and family. For all who love us and all whom we love. We give thanks.
And we give thanks for the lord of light and love who invites us into his presence.
Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
He is our help, our support, our strength, our keeper who will watch over us and protect us from darkness, even as we journey through the valley of the shadow of death.
We are not alone, because we are together, and because we are with God.
May his light shine in our darkness this Christmas.