This will be our family’s first Christmas after the death of my mother, so it may be rather bittersweet. Mother always loved Christmas and she and Dad always decorated the house thoroughly. We kids often joked that if one stood still too long, they might put Christmas lights on you. My folks have always been very generous at Christmas and other times, too. Even after we went to a plan of drawing names for Christmas gifts among family members, they always “cheated” and did extra giving. Family gatherings at Christmas time were always filled with joy, sharing, game-playing, singing carols around the piano and of course, lots of good food.

So this Christmas may be more of a “Blue Christmas” like so many of you have had your first Christmas after the death of a loved one. In fact, I previously have written to recommend to our churches that they consider hosting a “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night” service for those who are grieving this time of year. Simply going forward with the usual joyful activities is not always an easy choice when you have a lost a loved one since the last year’s celebrations. I urge our churches to be sensitive to those who are facing these holidays with the bittersweet feelings of both joy and sadness.

However, I also know that good Christmas memories can carry us through tough times and periods of grief. My own memories of Christmas are filled with images of family, faith and fun. My best Christmas memories include the times when Mother and Dad had a Jesus birthday cake, which we shared on Christmas morning to help us young kids remember that Christmas is not just about our own gift-giving and receiving – it is about the greatest gift. I remember times when Marsha and I took our young children, Steve and Laura, to help deliver Meals on Wheels on Christmas morning. Of course I remember many wonderful Christmas Eve worship services and times of sharing the joy of the Christ Gift in singing, preaching, candles and “Silent Night” rituals.

I invite you, your family and your church to consider these questions:

  • What kind of Christmas memories will you be making this year?
  • What things will you do this year for Christmas which will become sustaining memories for years to come?
  • How will your family and your church provide alternatives to the consumerism of the culture?
  • In what ways will your community and your world be blessed by what you do this Christmas?

Those wonderful Christmas memories from the past did not happen by accident. My parents and my home church planned those events and made it possible for me to have cherished memories that will endure through this bittersweet Christmas of 2010.

How about you, your family and your church? How will you work to provide the kinds of cherished memories which will sustain you and others for years to come?

Make some Christmas memories this year. You will be glad to have them in the future.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church

“Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world”

Christmas may be rather bittersweet.