I’ve got the tissues in my bag ready for when we start singing carols at church, either this week or next, I expect. For me, each one brings memories flooding back – mostly happy ones. I remember infant and junior school when we could reach the high notes of the descant part to O Little Town of Bethlehem, and we sang Little Donkey into the massive video recorder resting on my Dad’s shoulder.
However, like us, I’m sure your family shares bittersweet memories of loss at Christmastime. One song, in particular, O Holy Night, reminds me of a dear family member who died very close to Christmas. She struggled to make it to the kids’ church play on the 16th December, where we sang this, her favourite carol. We tackled it with brave faces in spite of – or maybe in defiance of – her closeness to death. We all knew it would be her last visit, yet we all turned our gaze to the children and their play on the stage. By Christmas Day, she was gone.
Eight years on, I’m still using her baking tins, her recipes, her advice, and her many words of wisdom on an almost daily basis. Last night, her widower drove out to buy a pot of cream to add to the chicken korma I was making. After smelling the curry paste and reminiscing about Friday nights there was an unspoken urge to properly recreate one of their most comforting memories of her, and it wouldn’t be her ‘Mrs. Pakak’s’ without a rich glug of cream added in at the end.
How incredible that God has designed such powerful memories to be triggered by a song or a smell! Much as it hurts to be reminded of our loss, the shared grief brings families together, and what a comfort these memories are.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
If grief is daily washing over you like the tide, leaving little time to catch your breath between onslaughts, I am truly sorry. One of our seminars at the 2020 weekends away will be focused on ‘Sorrow to Joy’. I know the speaker’s first-hand experience and practical advice on how to move forward after tragedy or disappointment will be an important Night-and-Day moment for many of us.
I’d better keep those tissues in my bag.
Whatever the gorgeous words and rich sounds of the carols, I pray you will find comfort in their gospel truth, and the memories they evoke, both happy and sad.
A couple of years ago, I did a bit of research into the history and meaning of some favourite carols. If you’d like to read more about the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, click here
If you’d like to find out more about the carol Oh Holy Night – a poem written by a non-believer with a melody created by a Jewish composer – there’s an interesting video here: