Mission in grief

Christmas is almost upon us. The coloured lights are going up, the family gatherings are being planned, and the letterboxes are filling up with junk mail enticing us to overcrowded malls. Christmas is a wonderful Christian festival and most churches ramp-up for its celebration. It’s a great opportunity to be present in the community and declare the real reason for the season. But for many people in our neighbourhoods, Christmas this year will be tough. For these people, there is no joyful anticipation, only dread and sadness. It won’t be the whole family this year. Someone is missing.This is their first Christmas since the death of a loved one. What does the gospel look like in the midst of grief? Jesus himself said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” (Matthew 5:4). And perhaps Jesus’ compassion towards people overwhelmed by grief is best summed up by John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”

What can we do to serve and minister to people in our community who grieve this Christmas? Amidst its other Christmas activities, Pittwater Uniting Church (NSW) holds a Service of Solace to bring the Kingdom of God to those grieving the loss of a loved one. Senior Minister Alan Robinson’s sends a letter to people in the community. It begins, “[Our] thoughts are with you as Christmas approaches. This is a time of joy but also a time to grieve when you are aware that a loved one is missing. Enclosed is an invitation to attend our church’s Service of Solace … 

There are many ways a service like this could be run. Pittwater Uniting Church uses a range of symbols, such as candles and a Christmas tree, along with special prayers, poems and Bible readings. The short sermon addresses the various aspects of grief and its impact when Christmas and other anniversaries come along. People are assured that their feelings are normal and okay.

In terms of presenting the gospel, this is not method for taking advantage of people made vulnerable by their grief. And yet the love of God in the midst of troubled times is at the heart of our Christmas message. What better time to share our faith in the God of all comfort? Perhaps your church could consider offering a Service of Solace this Christmas or next? You could spread the word by connecting with a nearby funeral director, advertising in the local newspaper, or with a letterbox drop. It may be that this is an opportunity to present the loving outstretched arms of Christ and his Church in a way that has a deep and life-changing impact.

If you would like to find out more information about the Pittwater Uniting Church Service of Solace contact Alan Robinson: [email protected]

Case Study (prac8): Mission in grief.