Normally I would be writing an article about the joys of Christmas, but as I write this my heart is torn, like most of yours, with the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

The parents of twenty children and the families of six adults will spend less time this year celebrating and more time mourning the precious ones taken from them.  There will be much sorrow, doubt and anger.

Many of you have been through the loss of a loved one; perhaps a parent, grandparent, close friend, aunt, uncle or even a child.  Each Christmas the memories return.  You see where they would sit during Christmas dinner.  You hear the familiar statements they would always make.  You can smell the same perfume or cologne that distinguished them from others.  You know their laugh and vividly picture their smile, no matter how big or small it may have been.  We all have those memories and we rehearse them in our thoughts during this season of the year.

Why do they flood our minds at Christmas and seem so difficult to recall at other times?  I think the answer was best stated by Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.  When discussing how to best remember the faces of those who have passed or whom we no longer see, he said,

“You gotta think of context…you just don’t think about their faces, think about something specific. Something you’ve done together. Well, when I think of home, I...I think of something specific. I think of my...my hammock in the backyard or my wife pruning the rosebushes in a pair of my old work gloves.”

Christmas provides us with a context.  We have vivid memories of what went on during this special time.  During other seasons of the year we struggle to bring these to mind.  We need a context.  Think of what they were doing or times you had together.  Maybe it was a trip to the beach, a meal that was way overdone, a project that took longer than expected or the way they entered a room.  As the years pass and the pain subsides, those events are still entrenched within you.  They are part of what made you.  May those be the memories that are always embraced by the parents and loved ones of all who were taken last week along with us who have lost loved ones ourselves.

And “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Keep those families in prayer this Christmas, hug your own children a little longer and enjoy every moment you have together.  Each one is important.