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"Merry Christmas & Happy New Year"

I can’t believe it’s already our second Christmas without my father with us to celebrate this special holiday. For the past two months I’ve been working so many long hours that, besides a few days around Thanksgiving, I haven’t had much time to stop and reflect. However, in the early hours of Christmas morning I awoke and began to sense that solemn sadness once again, the reality of our situation.

I’m currently in the mountains of upstate NY, looking out the window and watching a remarkable vista. The pine needles are wonderfully decorated with snow and the ground is perfectly covered like a wool blanket. If I could paint it with a brush and capture it to share it with others, I would. Perhaps that’s what makes such views so timeless.

It is a privilege for us to have extended family to visit and share their holiday with us. I’m not sure what we would do if we didn’t have family to be with during these most difficult times. In one sense it is a shame that we have to “get away” from our own home. For me, home has always been associated with such positive feelings and treasured memories. And we will always carry those recollections within us as reminders of the great upbringing we once had. But since dad passed away, our home is now a reminder of other things: of not having our dad/husband around; of not hearing his recognizable voice which brought reassurance, encouragement, and comfort; of not seeing mom and dad together and seeing their love for one another.

Christmas is still somewhat of a numb feeling for the four of us. As much as we would like to say everything is normal once again, like last year, the holiday is different and experienced quite differently than most others. My brothers and I had some time alone this morning to sit and talk. So many things were discussed, so many memories were shared. As I looked into my brother’s weary eyes, I recognized and understood their feelings without them having to say a single word. That’s how well we understand one another. All three of us expressed how much we miss our father. Even though it’s not a year and six months yet, we still shake our heads in disbelief. No matter what we do, this awkward numbness is always attached to everything we do. When we see other people talk about their dad’s and how they’re going to spend their Christmas holiday with their father, we wish we could say we’re spending ours with our dad also.

In spite of what we’re feeling and going through, I fear I’ve lost sight of the meaning of Christmas. Always wanting to glean a new insight from the birth of Christ and the significance of his entrance into human history, I wonder how much I’m able to glean and appreciate our king’s birth now.

For the past few weeks, I’ve thought about the one name Christ was given, that being Immanuel which means “God with us.” In earlier reflections I’ve openly shared my frustration in feeling like God is no where to be found. I’ve tried to express my need of him but it feels as if he is absent. Again, I say this because that’s how it feels. On the other hand with all feelings aside, I don’t embrace my faith by what I feel but by what I know to be true. If I lived life by my emotions, it would be a rollercoaster ride. But when I live by what I read in scripture, I can rest on a bed of truth. So even when my world appears to collapse before me, I can still trust that God is still fully involved in my life and my world – even when my faith is quite weak, which seems to be more apparent now.

Let’s look at Christ. Even when he requested from his father that his cup (referring to his death) be removed if it was his will, we realize Christ still died on that cross. Does one conclude that God abandoned his own son? On the surface it could appear that way, but one must not close the book there. He returned in human form and there are plenty of documented eyewitness accounts pointing to his actual return to earth. Obviously, God had a much greater plan for him and thankfully it included us. So although my view is very limited regarding my father’s passing, I trust we will come out the other side much better than we think. It’s just the “going through” part that takes so much out of us each day.

As I think about the phrase, “God with us”, it has more meaning to me now than ever before. Now that my father has passed on into eternity, I take comfort in knowing that God is with us at every moment of the day. And when we feel that sense of loneliness, we can find hope in knowing that he is there watching out for us and fully aware of every single step we take.

As I write this I realize there are many across the globe experiencing loss like they've never seen before. With the terrible tragedy that occurred in Asia from the earthquake and the tsunamis, the loss of life is staggering. Why did so many have to die? I don’t understand it. If there is ever a cry for God to be with us, I pray that He will hear our prayers especially now. During this holiday season, my prayer is that we will all sense on some level his presence. God, please come near to our weakened and fragile lives. We need you!

- Justin Agoglia