Monday, November 24, 2008

Grief during the Holiday Season...It is OK!

Yesterday at SVC, we had a holy moment.

I began the sermon by having people look to their neighbor and say two things:
1) "Happy Thanksgiving."
2) "Next time you see me I will be 7 pounds heavier."

"Thanksgiving is great," I continued.
"We enjoy fellowship with our relatives...we eat until we can't eat anymore...we confine ourselves to the living room where we lie on couches for the rest of the afternoon and we join in one of the greatest spiritual experiences of the holiday season--we watch America's team, or more importantly, God's team, play a few hours of football."

However, if you are like me, there will be moments of grief this holiday season. This is the first holiday season without my grandfather. For some people, it will be their first holiday season without a dad, mom, sister, brother, a son or daughter, or a close relative or friend.
Maybe it is the first holiday season, or another holiday season, as one who has suffered from a broken marriage.
Maybe it is the first holiday season, or another holiday season, without the presence of a relative because they are fighting a war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or they are stationed somewhere else throughout the world.
The truth is that there are certain people that we do not know life without them. And there absence stings.

For those who would be experiencing moments of sadness or grief during the Thanksgiving week, I had them stand. And then, we surrounded them, and we laid hands on them, and I prayed this prayer:
Lord, we come surrounding those we love as a testament to them that they are not alone, and that we choose to enter into their pain and grief this week. We are taught in Scripture that when a member rejoices, we all rejoice; and when a member mourns, we all mourn. In our grief contain and comfort us. Embrace us with your love, and give us hope in our confusion. As Jesus ascended into the heavens he spoke these words, "I am with you always." Let these words come to fruition this week in ways that are evident so that people may be fully aware of your abiding, constant presence.
(And the we all joined in praying these words together)
We turn to you, O God;
We claim your love;
We choose to be made whole.

Here's the point:
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks.
And on Sunday's around Thanksgiving, many churches focus on gratitude...which is good.
However, there are people who experience moments of grief and mourning during holiday seasons like Thanksgiving, and often we (the church) do not give them a voice.
Even for those who are mourning and grieving, is there something in their life to be grateful for? Absolutely!
But while giving thanks, is it okay to mourn and grieve? Absolutely!

May this Thanksgiving season be full of the presence of power of a God who abides with his people.


Tammie's Thoughts said...

Good lesson yesterday, josh. I was doing fine until you had us stand up...I lost both of my parents within a 3 month period earlier this siblings and I are going to Florida for thanksgiving to change things around and maybe it will help to be in different surroundings. thanks for you love and concern and for your prayer!

Jeff said...

Josh, thanks for reminding us to see more than what we experience in our own lives.

Olivia said...

I heard your lesson was awesome yesterday and I hate that I missed it. Holidays are always the worst time for grief and I never believed that until I was placed in that position. My grandfather, aunt and great-grandmother all died within a 3 month period from Thanksgiving to the end of January.

Even though the holidays are a painful time for myself and my family every year, it also gives me a special opportunity to remember the good times and all of the things that I learned from them!

phil said...

The prayer and idea sound like a great idea that all churches should implement at some time. As far as your first paragraph goes: "God's team" I shall remind you of Romans 2:11 :)

Josh Graves said...

Great post balla.


Lynn Leaming said...

Your grandfather would be so proud that you used his passing to make the II Corinthians 1:3-4 passage real in the life of your church and you were able to comfort because of the comfort that He gave you. I will be keeping your grandmother, mother and the rest of you in my thoughts and prayers as I know you will be giving thanks for the sweet memories you have of your grandfather and the anticipation of joining him at the throne one day.

Karen said...

I'm so glad you included this at the start of your message. I haven't lost anyone this year, but I cried for so many others who had. Thanks for remembering the ones so many forget. -Karen