In the midst of the hustle and bustle, the chaos and clutter, the preparations and perpetual carols, it’s easy to forget/ignore/overlook the many who grieve at this time of year.

Those people are in my heart in a special way this year.

A week ago, a friend texted me and asked me to pray for her nephew who was being rushed to Children’s Hospital. I had only a sentence to go on, so I went to sleep and prayed. In the morning, she sent me another update, asking for renewed prayers.

I did what anyone would do and asked if I could share it on social media (because I am linked to the most amazing pray-ers, I’m telling you) and then made sure her family had a priest there. (Being a parish secretary for many years taught me a few things, and one of them is that yes, you want a priest, and yes, I can call the chancery or the local parish or whatever. Even if I am emotional and pregnant and impacted by what I’m doing.)

That afternoon, I saw an update on my Facebook thread that her nephew had passed away. And I had a few moments of…well, I don’t know what to call them. I have been holding their family in my heart and prayers since then, because I have a shiny tree and healthy children and…not their grief. It’s the least I can do.

Then, last night, I got an email that reminded me, yet again, that this isn’t always a happy snappy time of year. It was news that the two-year-old daughter of a friend’s friends had stopped suffering and was home in heaven. (Yes, I’m presuming that this two-year-old, whose life was colored with cancer and tumors, got a ticket straight to heaven.)

As I was thinking about the scene of Mama Mary holding these babies, I couldn’t help but think about the baby who’s coming in a few days. He’s humble and small and vulnerable. In fact, he died, too (though not as a baby).

The hope of this season isn’t always happy. For many of those around us, it’s a spear in their hearts, a reminder of a loss or an empty spot or a cold shoulder. There are people who are hungry and hurting — and not for food or because of abuse. They may look just fine on the outside.

There’s still hope at Christmas though. Even if it’s not sparkly and twinkly and sung to a three-part melody. There is comfort in the manger, in the wood that surrounds our Savior.

He comes in a few days, no matter where we are or how we feel. His small arms reach up to comfort us in the midst of our tears and in the emptiness of the sorrow.

Turn to him. Let his mom hug you. And don’t forget to pray for those who carry this time of year as a cross and a burden.