December 22, 2006
Mary knows that it’s just a matter of days until our family is together for Christmas. It’s almost like a fuse has been lit, or a countdown got started, and here we are, days away from trips to Denver International Airport to welcome, and just hours away from a 1999 gray Saturn showing up in our driveway when we celebrate… homecoming, Christmas style.
In fact, the dining room table already has places set. We’re ready. Yet this picture of preparation reminds me that for many of our friends, there will be fewer places to set this year. Joy is muted. Pain is an ingredient in the blended reunions of these folks. Someone is gone… and maybe even more than one.
Some lives were snuffed, others we simply ushered on, but there is a heaviness, an ache that has entered the festivity. In some cases, it has come in overwhelming proportion. In fact, at times, eternity feels like no match for the loneliness. And a baby, born into obscurity over two thousand years ago, seems almost irrelevant. So here, tears greet Christmas. They are spontaneous and powerful.
An empty chair, a silent voice, empty arms…
Life… and death are a part of this story. But hope, real hope has not disappeared. God is not wringing His celestial hands wondering what to do next. You see, His seat, the presence of the living God, is never empty. Just ask Jesus:
I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:32-33 (ESV)
Merry Christmas. Especially to those of you who are experiencing pain. It is precisely the coming of the Messiah that reveals the embracing heart of the Father. Through the tears, in the tears, with the tears… you will know “God with us,” the “overcomer,” as never before.
Even in the pain… especially in the pain… Jesus.