For many, the holidays really are (cue Andy Williams) the most wonderful time of the year. We associate the Advent season with food, family, friends, parties, presents, the Nutcracker. It can be a highly anticipated time from which we draw strength and energy, and may find ourselves sad when it is over.

For many others, the holidays can be difficult for numerous reasons. What has been experienced as a positive season can become complicated when one is grieving. Losses may involve the death of a dear loved one, but can also be centered around the loss of a job, relationship, place, or home. Because we experience this season as a time of connection with loved ones, an absence of a cherished person is felt even more keenly, as are other losses. Sadness can seem overwhelming if this is the first holiday season after such a loss, if the loss happened during this or a prior holiday season, or if these days are associated with a birthday or an anniversary. If the missing person, place, or relationship is especially connected to a holiday tradition, this too can make this season difficult. Even if not a new loss, it may still be a time of dearly missing this important person in or piece of your life.

River Road Church will be offering two events during Advent with all this in mind. Please consider attending both offerings and inviting others.

First, on Wednesday evening, December 4, at 6:15 p.m. in the Assembly Room, David Breckenridge will lead a presentation and discussion on the topic of “Understanding Needs: Helping Those Who Hurt Navigate the Holidays.” In this session, we will explore how people are likely to be feeling loss most keenly during the holidays; ways that such individuals can survive the season; and, most importantly, how we might walk with such individuals during the holidays as instruments of God’s peace and care.

Second, on Wednesday evening, December 18, at 6:15 p.m. in the Chapel, we will join in our annual Starlight Service of Remembrance. This is the eleventh year that RRCB has offered such a service. Such services have become an international tradition, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where Christmas falls so close to the Winter Equinox, the darkest day of the year but also the day when darkness begins to give way to light. Our service will include music, liturgy, prayer, and a reflection which will give witness to both the pain of our losses as well as the comfort and hope we have in a God who, then and now, comes to be with us. Highlights of the service include communion and a time when candles of remembrance will be lit. We encourage you to tend to your own experience of loss this Advent and, as you do so, also to consider those around you who could use some extra care this holiday season.

Written by David Breckenridge & Anna Perry Miller