Remember those whose hearts are aching


Several years ago, I was standing in a checkout line behind two women who were deep in conversation. I couldn’t help overhearing that one was recently widowed and struggling to adjust to this new season of life. Most of their conversation, however, was drowned out by the lilting strains of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing over the loudspeakers.

That moment of odd juxtaposition reminded me that, for many, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas holds a measure of sorrow.

Like the stranger shopping with me, many dread their first Christmas without a loved one. Others are facing their second, or ninth, or 27th Christmas without a loved one when the blessed numbness of the first year has passed and the reality of loss has taken hold.

There are some who expect with dread that this may be the last Christmas they will share with a suffering family member or friend. There are some passing the first season when an adult child will not be able to come home. This may be the first Christmas away from the family home because downsizing or simple economics mean the home was sold and the large table that had long been the setting for family feasts is no more.

It may be the season when a military deployment keeps a member away from home – knowing he or she will miss a child’s first Christmas or a grandparent’s last.

Others have no time or energy to celebrate because they silently work multiple jobs or scramble to care for those unable to care for themselves. Still others know they will not celebrate Christmas in their own homes because they will be keeping vigil with loved ones in hospitals, hospices or nursing homes.

For some, the cares of life may have robbed them of a bit of their own faith in a season when it is yearned for the most.

Advent seems particularly meant for those who carry great burdens. It comes in the darkest days of the year when the nights are the longest and light most scarce. It is a season that recalls the ancient world’s aching wait for Christ, yearning for the tidings of great joy that had not yet come.

It is not a season of red and green and gold and silver, but of purple – because the joy promised is hoped for, but not yet here.

If you are facing Christmas with sorrow in your heart, I hope that you will find comfort in believing that, truly, Advent is the season for you. It is the season for all those who hope for what they do not have, and who yearn to see light after a season of darkness.

All appearances to the contrary, Advent is not the season of the jolly songs and frantic festivities of Christmas. It is the season for hearts that hope and souls that seek.

If this year has treated you well, I have a gentle suggestion. During the remainder of Advent, remember all those you know whose hearts might be aching. Devote some time to them during this season of yearning, waiting and hoping in the darkness. A visit, an email, a text, a letter, a phone call or the promise of prayer might be what they need to know — to know that they do not wait alone for the light to dawn. Advent seems the perfect time to assure those who suffer that Advent is, in the words of ancient carols, a time to “rest beside the weary road” until, once again, “a weary world rejoices.” It is a season to help each other move toward Christmas peace by sharing the burdens of ordinary times.

Lucia A. Silecchia is a professor of law and associate dean for faculty research at the Catholic University of America. Email her at [email protected].

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