On this Christmas Eve night, I would like to post a little about what this holiday means to me. I usually share my experiences of grief and loss, but today I would like to share my thoughts on hope. I don’t typically post about my personal views on other topics, but I felt inspired this morning on this special day to tell you about an experience I had relating to Christmas. Hoping you find peace during the Christmas season and in the New Year ahead.
As a young child it was the promise of all of the wonderful Christmas gifts under the tree that created the excitement and hope of Christmas morning. Today, it is God’s promise of hope for a life filled with love, joy and light that I look forward to at Christmas time. After Luke died four years ago, the holidays and especially Christmas (Luke’s favorite holiday) were some of the most difficult times to “get through”. The hope that our family’s life would ever be joyous again was so slim that the thought of going to church, celebrating Christmas or anticipating the new year ahead was too hard. It was all just too much. I was so resentful that God took away my only son that even considering to honor his birth and his gift to us was out of the question. I didn’t attend church for the next three years. The faith that I nurtured and cherished my entire life was gone just like my son. I felt I was walking alone on this journey….that God had abandoned me in my life. That he was punishing me for whatever sins or misdeeds I had committed in the forty-four years I had been on the Earth. It was a dark period in my spiritual life.
At about the three year mark, I felt the pull of God to return to my church-the place I grew up creating a bond with God. It wasn’t an immediate happening, but a little experience in New Orleans last year cemented my decision to go back. It was the Sunday before Christmas, a beautiful, historic church named the St. Louis Cathedral was within walking distance of our hotel. I asked my family to attend church with me and they agreed. I was so happy to have everyone attend with me. As I entered through the doors of this old, sacred place, I could feel my heart opening to the experience. We sat in the last row and admired the magnificence of the architecture, the red poinsettias and holiness of it all. Each year the Catholic Church does a reading from one of the four gospels-that year according to the church bulletin, the gospel reading was according to Matthew. I looked forward to hearing the messages of the readings since I felt this might be a good time for God to speak to me through his word. I prayed to him and to Luke that they give me a sign through the readings in anyway they could. When the priest came to stand in front of the pulpit, I was “all ears”, waiting for my message. The priest begins each gospel saying these words, “A reading from the holy gospel according to St.________.” I, of course, expected his next word to be Matthew, but what he said next sent a shock of electricity through my body. Father said, “A reading from the gospel according to St. LUKE!! My heart leapt with joy in my body, I teared up immediately and a huge, wide smile crossed my lips. The rest of the congregation probably thought I was totally crazy. I couldn’t stop smiling or keep the tears from coming to my eyes. As I type this, I can still feel the amazing range of emotions pulsing through my body. Now, I know that some people might say that there was just a typo in the bulletin that day and the name switch could have easily been a mistake, but to me it was just the sign I needed, the gift I was looking to receive that Christmas. In a church so very far away from the one I usually attend, God had shown me in a very subtle way he was still by my side and that, more importantly, he was embracing my son in his arms and loving him for me. This small event opened my heart to God’s word and his promise of a beautiful life filled with love, joy and light. I thanked God and Luke for their wonderful gift. After that Sunday, I began going to my own church here at home on a regular basis. Returning to God wasn’t quick and it certainly wasn’t easy, but when I did come back, it gave me the hope that I needed to live my life here on Earth with love, joy and light. That, truly is God’s gift to us tonight. On Christmas Eve, I believe the promise to us all is that even if life here on Earth isn’t always perfect and sometimes it just isn’t fair, with His guidance and the help of our sweet angels, we will find the true gifts of the season. Wishing everyone a peaceful and meaningful Christmas filled with love, joy and light.
The Hahn Family