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As Advent begins and preparations for Christmas are underway, the arrival of Christmas can be more challenging for those who suffer with grief.  If you are someone who has experienced a loss due to death, a job ending, a divorce, estrangement in a relationship, then the joy and jubilance of the season can be quite emotional and even an unwanted celebration.  Jesus knows that.

This King of kings we herald, Jesus the Christ, is worthy of all honor, praise, and celebration.  Part of the reason to rejoice over His birth and coming is that He came to prove to you and to me that He would never leave us.  He never has.  Faith is oh so easy when times are easy and life does not distress.  But when circumstances are such that faith ebbs and joy is gone, this Saviour of all time and place, carries us by the might of His Spirit through times that we would not—could not—survive without Him.  That may be one such time for you this Christmas or for someone you know.  Trust that the Lord Jesus is with you now.  Even in your weakness, open your heart to the broad power that is His and can see you through this Christmastide.

Lord Jesus, contemplating Your birth is indeed joyous.  Yet, You know that there are many who weep and wonder this season as to how they will endure these weeks.  Lord, You are the answer.  May each one in need receive Your touch of assurance and brace themselves on the arm of Your love to walk them through this Advent Season.  In Thee, Amen.

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Gratitude in a time of grief.  How could this be possible? When loss comes and empty days are faced with confusion, despondency, tears, anger, and silence, giving thanks is a foreign act.   However, painful as it is go live through a season of sorrow, this is an opportunity for God to reveal His faithfulness to us, and for us to show our loyalty to Him.

There are times in life that are so emotionally challenging that a spirit just wants out.  But there is more growth and conformity to Christ’s character in times of challenge than there is in times without distress.  Grief does offer gratitude when meaningful memories flow, and insights about relationships come to the surface; a rise that might not have been were it not for the pain of separation and goodbye.

Trust the companionship of the Lord Jesus to bring you to a place with Him so that you can know grateful—even in this season of life.  The first and foremost reason for gratitude is the Love by your side in this season: Jesus Himself.

Lord Jesus, Your presence is reason to be grateful.  It assures us that we are not alone in our times of disappointment, sorrow, and challenge.  This Thanksgiving, may hearts make room for You, no matter what other emotions are also seated in the heart.  Thank You, Lord Christ, for Thy presence and loving care.  In Thee, Amen.

Believing in someone or something that has let you down is a disappointment that can confuse and challenge one in a state of grief.  Specifically, when someone dies as a result of drug or alcohol addiction or suicide, grief is often exacerbated by shame, guilt and anger.  One may think such a death was preventable.  If only is a notion that can puzzle and haunt individuals in a season of grief.  That open thought stays in the air.  Blessedly, such thoughts are mingled with the Spirit of God.

 The Lord’s presence changes all circumstances to make them His opportunities to reveal His love and faithfulness.  It may not feel or seem like love is present when the angst of a tragic death bears down.  But love is present.  Christ is present.  Sorrows in life are the underside of love but still very much a part of love’s fabric.  Often it is the more complex and deeply moving experiences known out of love that act to strengthen love and faith, and create courage necessary to forgive, heal, and keep on loving.

Lord of love, You know that separation from those a loved one is indeed one of the most challenging experiences we can know in life.   Lord, when You went to the cross to die for all sin, Your separation from the Father was an acute emotional pain.  You know what it is to grieve and long.  Jesus, be with those who grieve and long now.  Touch them so they know Your peace.  May resurrection hope revive and sustain those who hurt.  Thank You, Jesus, for Thy loving care.  Amen.

How much?  How much do you think it will cost you to keep following the Star, Jesus Christ?  We may not often ask that question of ourselves yet life’s circumstances are such that at times we are challenged to go to the core of that answer.  Disappointment, illness, job loss, death, schism in relationships, and cultural pulls toward sin are among the realities that Christians face in this life as they seek hour by hour to keep following the Star. 

The degree to which you will follow Jesus is measured by how much you trust His answer to that question.  Jesus made it clear on the cross at Calvary that He is willing to go all the way for those He loves.  Isaiah informs us For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  He endured.  There was something ahead worth holding on for.  There was something more important than Himself: You.

Hold on.  Keep following the Star, Jesus.  He is with you.  Whatever hurts today, this week, this moment, know that you do not feel it or face it alone.  Jesus is with you.  Trust His presence even when you cannot feel it.  Look at the cross; it is the only reminder you will ever need to awaken your hope that He will go all the way with you and for you.

Jesus, You did it all.  You held on.  You suffered.  You died.  You rose.  Why?  For love.  Lord Jesus, may the one who is reading this be assured by Spirit-power that You are with them and that they can indeed carry on for You carry them.  In thee, our Saviour, Amen.

LINEN WRAPPINGS

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb, and he saw the linen clothes lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.                        John 20:6

Growing up at my grandmother’s side, I became accustomed to watching this skillful seamstress and artisan at work.  Her knowledge of fabrics and their uses were extensive; I learned about linen early on.  Similarly, when I completed post-graduate work in interior design, linen was not only an early presentation in a course in Fabric Science and Usage, linen was a fabric requirement to be used in various projects on which students were graded.  According to the dictionary, linen is a cloth made of flax and noted for its strength, coolness, and luster.  This is a serviceable fabric indeed, which is why its use for burial was essential and reasonable in ancient times for burial.  Recently I saw this usage of linen on display as used by ancient Egyptians. 

In New York City I went to view the King Tutankhamun exhibit on display at the Discovery Museum in Times Square.  There are colorful objects with clear explanations of the use of these objects by the ancient Egyptians.   The exhibit is somewhat anti-climactic for the tour ends with a skeletal replica of King Tut.  The original no longer leaves Egypt due to the damage it suffered while on tour in America during the 1970’s. 

Amulets, spells from The Book of the Dead, nesting coffins, and canopic jars (jars used to separately house the organs of a body when it is buried), are featured in opulent colors and detailed craftsmanship.  Linen wrappings were a prolific staple in the process of mummification of a body, wrapping it in sturdy linens for burial to sustain the soul and to protect the soul after death.  King Tut’s leadership in this quest for preservation of souls in the afterlife was strong and sincere.  Sincerely wrong.

It is a provocative experience to observe the traditions of others.  But sadly for these souls, there was not the afterlife for which they had believed in and sought to reach.  Their sophisticated and beautiful preparations to send a soul to the afterlife were deficient.  Jesus Christ is the only way to a peaceful afterlife.  The artifacts that surrounded me in the museum represented false hope.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is fact.  The linens that lay on the floor of Christ’s tomb that morning long ago were not colorful, plentiful or detailed.  But they are lovely evidence of an afterlife and truth that shines brilliantly in hearts of Christian believers worldwide.

The kind of death one will experience is not known.  How our lives in this world shall end, is known only to God.  But for persons who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour, there is an assurance that the soul will be with Jesus forever.  This does not take away the ache and grief that comes with missing a loved one who has died.  It does not prevent a season of loss nor the emotional pain and longing for someone who has gone ahead.  What belief in Jesus does do is serve as a comfort and a hope that quietly lives inside to sustain the spirit of one who grieves.  Only the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit can allow this truth to settle inside and give assurance as time goes by.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20).  My treasure is in Heaven.  Where is yours?  Do you grieve someone?  Something?  Has life changed in such a way that loss has taken hold and you think that you will never be full again with optimism, peace or joy?  Rest assured, that Jesus knows your answers to these questions.  Be certain that His finished work on Calvary more than 2000 years ago, and His rise from death, still extends life and hope to you today.  Jesus is with you.  Let Him be with you.  Give Him room.  The Egyptians acted to perform serious and intricate works to gain hope and sustain life.  Christians do it with words: Yes, Jesus, I believe in You.  No matter what, even when life and losses hurt, I know that You will sustain me.  Thank You, Jesus.   That sustenance holds true not only for our eternal resting place but also for the life we live in this world until the time the Lord calls us Home.  Believe in His promise and His love for you.  Believe in what fell on the floor of Christ’s tomb: His linen wrappings.   

Jesus of Life, You overcame death on the cross, rose from the dead, and left linen wrappings behind.  This is the path believers in You have taken and shall take when it is the end of time in this world.  Jesus, please comfort those who are afflicted by grief and its many challenging emotions.  Come to each in Your personal way so that they will know Your peace and assurance.  Jesus, please be with those who are conflicted about life after death.  Holy Spirit, by Your leading grant inspiration and true hope to those who seek the Truth.  In Thy Name, Lord Jesus, Amen.