Christmas is a time of merriment and festivities – family, friends, food – gifts galore. Sadly, though, Christmas can be a time when loved ones no longer with us are missed so much. I was reminded about one family this year who will celebrate Christmas after losing 9 members of their family.
Joe and Claryce Holcombe are preparing for Christmas in their Sutherland Springs, Texas home, but they miss nine members of their family. The Holcombes, age eighty-six and eight-five, lost family members spanning three generations when a gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church on November 5. Their son, Bryan, was killed. So was their daughter-in-law, Karla; their grandson, Danny; their granddaughter-in-law, Crystal, and her unborn child; and four great-grandchildren: Noah, Greg, Emily, and Megan.
How does a person handle such tragedy?
Joe Holcombe, who goes by “Papa Joe,” told a Time reporter: “Everybody always wants us to be whimpering and crying because we lost some of our family. That’s not the way we are. It happened and it hurt. But we don’t look at death as separation. We look at it as just another event in our life.”
“Papa Joe” faces tragedy with fervent hope because he believes in heaven: “It won’t be long until we’ll be there with the rest of the family. I miss my family. We don’t see them coming down the sidewalk at the front door anymore. But I won’t miss them long.”
The Holcombes may feel lonely this season, but they will never be alone.
As Jim Denison stated: “Christmas reminds us that we serve an incarnational God. When we trust our pain to his unseen presence, our materialistic culture sees our faith and courage. Like Joe Holcombe, we are given opportunity to bear witness to our sustaining Lord.
And Jesus becomes as real to us as if we were part of the first Christmas, because his stable is now our heart.”
That’s something I can take to heart.
1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”