As the holidays approach, there will undoubtedly be many who set the table this year faced with the reality of a seat unfilled, a plate unused, and a presence un-forgotten. The loss of a loved one brings a subtle sadness to once cheerful traditions and celebrations. Many face this unwelcomed grief with the confusion of how to enjoy the holidays and embrace remaining loved ones, while at the same time acknowledging the pain and discomfort it brings. It can be easy to overlook those struggling and missing someone as we gear up for our own holiday travels, plans, and gatherings. But what if we took a moment to consider ways to be a gift to the grieving this year? What if we considered how to thoughtfully serve and care for those awaiting the aching reality of an empty chair this year? There are a number of ways to do so.
Some will find themselves alone for the first time this year. We have an opportunity as Christians to consider how to build up, how to encourage, and how to spur one another on when what surrounds us makes that seemingly difficult. One simple way we can seek to do this is by simply inviting others into our home to share a meal at our table and providing the sweet gift of fellowship that God often uses so graciously to encourage us. In loneliness and isolation, we can fill our hearts and minds with the reality of our hard circumstances. But gathering with others can speak truth and love into our lives when we need it most. If we have the blessings of family and community this year, let's be generous in sharing it with those who don't. Even providing a meal or offering to help with cooking or preparing can relieve the burden of the holiday season. Maybe those who have lost loved ones continue to host and gather, yet they gear up for the preparation with a bit of fear. Grief can leave us physically worn and exhausted. By offering to step in and help with meals, we can carry the burden with those who are struggling and remind them of the help God has provided for us through one another.
Though much of the holiday festivities are centered around meals and family gatherings, there is a great deal of in-between. There are slow and quiet mornings, days with normal work and responsibilities, and evenings with no plans. It is within those quiet, un-filled moments that we are often most flooded with memories and recognition of the pain of grief. We can be intentional to take notice of how to be a gift in those moments as well, whether that means inviting someone with us to finish a shopping list, taking someone out for hot chocolate, asking to come help with laundry, or calling someone up to check-in and ask how things are going. We don't need to come up with elaborate gestures or try to distract them from their pain. There is a profound impact made simply by being there. We may be surprised by the comfort we can bring to those grieving this holiday season by listening and reminding them that they are not alone.
Whether friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, or church members, we likely know of more specific ways to care for them in this season as we invest more deeply in their lives. But one way that cannot be neglected is praying for the grieving. As our calendar fills, let's pray specifically for those who will face a different kind of holiday season. Pray for the God of all comfort to intervene in their grief with comfort only He can bring. Pray for them to experience the richness and depth of God's love in ways they haven't before. Pray that those experiencing loss would be met with the glorious hope of heaven. Pray for God's Word to speak tenderly and graciously to them. Pray for God's people to surround them with sensitivity, kindness, and generosity. The more we pray for the needs of others, the more mindful we are of the needs of others. Though the holiday season may incline us toward our own traditions, gatherings, and festivities, Scripture reminds us to consider others above ourselves. We have an opportunity to look outside of ourselves and be used by God in the life of another–an opportunity that will bless and humble us, too. How will you consider ways to be a gift to the grieving this year?