Spiritual Practice

No One Cries Alone

Gerrit Scott Dawson

Christmas is a time for bright lights, festive decorations, parties, and gifts. Everyone seems happy, maybe even you, although someone you love has died. Then unexpectedly, the grief sneaks up on you. It works like this: You are shopping in the mall, humming along with a familiar Christmas carol. For a second, you remember happy Christmases you spent with someone you loved. Then you realize that you will not have another Christmas together in this world. You are pierced by the happiness that stirred inside you. Your memories have betrayed you. You cry or curse because Christmas has smacked you.

girl crying2 TSP 179007478People who are grieving find that holidays are the hardest times of the year. Grief seems out of place in a time of celebration. We don’t want to burden others with our pain; so at Christmas, we feel more alone than ever.

A Bible story we hear at Easter can be a big help for Christmas sadness. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were Jesus’ friends. Lazarus became ill and died. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in a tomb for three days. Martha greeted Jesus with these desperate words, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21b, NRSV). Mary was weeping and all of Lazarus’ relatives and friends were crying. When Jesus saw all this grief, “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:33b, NRSV). Jesus went to the tomb of his friend Lazarus and broke down. He just boohooed. Compassion and sadness swept over him. And he wept.

Then Jesus ordered the stone to be rolled away from the tomb. His tears stopped, and his voice rose: “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out of the tomb alive!

Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. But first he felt the grief of losing a friend. Jesus lived inside our losses before he brought Lazarus back to life. He knows what it’s like to have someone you love die. An ancient prayer says it well: You have wept over Lazarus as a man. You have raised him as God.

At Christmas, we remember that the Son of God entered into the losses and difficulties of human life. Jesus felt the pain of death as fully as we do. Christmas means that God knows all about our lives, and God feels for us.

Because of Jesus, we will one day experience the joy of resurrection, a life free of sin and death. Meanwhile, we live in a world where we experience difficult losses. I’m glad Jesus knows how we feel. I’m thankful that he grieved for Lazarus. This Christmas, Jesus feels our grief. We do not cry alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ cries with us.


teen in cemetery2 TSP 115964518DIG DEEPER

Read the story of Lazarus in John 11:1–44. Consider why Jesus waited before he left for Bethany. Imagine what he felt when his friends reminded him that he could have kept Lazarus from dying. Feel what it was like for Jesus at the tomb of his friend.

In times of loss, Jesus is with us. He cries with us in the night when we think we are alone. This Christmas, if you are mourning the death of a loved one, carry with you this ancient prayer: You have wept over Lazarus as a man; you have raised him as God. 

Gerrit Scott Dawson is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, North Carolina.

—from devozine (November/December 2003). Copyright © 2003 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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