I think of loved ones who've passed away
And I pray they're resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry
I was driving home from Maryland today and the words above sang out in a song I was listening to on the radio. It was a perfect storm: up early and on the road to Maryland, a long day of meetings, an agonizing drive home that started out stuck in northern Virginia traffic - and then this song.
I was blessed to grow up living within sugar borrowing distance of my grandparents and great-grandparents. It made Christmases the best time of the year. How could it not be, surrounded by so many grandparents who enjoyed nothing more than spoiling grandchildren. Some of my fondest and clearest memories are of the stories and laughter we shared during those holidays. That's why those Christmases and my grandparents came to mind when the song started playing.
I was reminded that as much as I write about looking forward to this Christmas, and as much as I share in the joy and excitement of my children, for many people this is not a day of celebrating, but one of loneliness and sad recollections of Christmases past they wish would come again, if just one more time.
Then I began thinking about the parents of the young children slain in the Newtown shootings nearly one year ago now. So many of them were probably still too numb at Christmas last year to know just how much they missed their children. That won't be the case this year. Many of them will feel the pain of one less Santa letter, one less child running through the house singing off-key Christmas songs, one less child saying they wished all the days between now and Christmas would last only one second.
I could tell you I didn't have tears in my eyes, that today Christmas didn't make me cry, and I would get away with it because there was no one there who could possibly call me a liar. Or maybe this far into my thoughts you know better.
My thoughts did turn more hopeful. I had this vision of my grandparents sharing stories and laughs with one of those little Newtown children. Then one by one they gathered until my grandparents were surrounded by each and every one of those precious children. That's when it hit me all of their days of anticipating are done. When the song ended, there were no more tears, but a smile, as I found myself wondering: if anticipation that ends with celebrating the birth of Christ feels glorious, what must the anticipation feel like that ends with celebrating Christmas in His presence?
Please keep the parents of the Newtown children in your prayers this season of advent, along with all who will be missing loved ones this Christmas.