"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf." (Heb. 6:19-20).

My son Joe's empty stocking on the fireplace seared my heart. It had been twelve years since Joe's tragic death.

Christmas no longer called for a celebration. Not anymore. Not when you have a vital part of your life missing. Festivities don't have the joy they should.

And Christmas trees don't emanate the usual scent.

Actually, my days needed to erase the Christmases, the birthdays, the holidays--all ushered pain rather than delight. They reminded me of what I once had and now what was gone.

The world celebrated, greetings of good wishes filled the room. But when tragedy turns your world upside down, no amount of cheer can bring clarity to the fog of sadness.

Strange, though, often, it's the scorching pain that forces our eyes to open to a bigger picture. It did for me as I rewound memories of past Christmases.

Years ago, when our three sons, including Joe, were still young, I focused on providing a perfect Christmas; a perfect tree to wrap a perfect celebration. As a result, little things tended to roil in me such as a light strand that refused to shine because of a burned bulb. Annoyed at the glitch, I promptly set off to resolve it. I fussed, I rearranged, plugged and unplugged until frustration grew hot in me.

How foolish and silly. I focused on that one bulb, dismissing the glow of the star atop the Christmas tree.

I've done the same with light bulbs that burned in my life--from broken relationships to shattered plans. Exerting tons of energy trying to fix them, I missed Christ, the newborn King--the star that gave significance to my life. The star that covers shadows of gloom and sorrow.

Joe's memories changed--his sweet smile, his tender hugs and his sense of humor now sit atop of my life, casting off that glow to bring back the joy.

To remind me that he's not gone, not from my heart, not from my mind, nor have the images of his spunky self vanished.

When that void in our heart aches to be filled, it's Christ's star of comfort that makes it whole. When bitter sorrow robs the spirit of Christmas, it's the star of His everlasting love that whispers joy. When a health diagnosis shakes our world, it's His star of reassurance that shines the certainty of new tomorrows. When our finances rob our security, it's the star of God's provision that ushers the radiance of reassurance. It's the same star that never loses the brilliance of hope. The hope that, through Christ, tragedies turn to triumph.

Janet Eckles

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