” . . . it is appointed for mortals to die once”
(Hebrews 9:27, NKJV)
My brother died this year. My sister-in-law wrote recently how some things don’t seem to change for the Christmas season, “but others are oh, so different.” I can’t fathom the depth of the loneliness. I’m not even sure that’s the correct word, nor that I can find it. After so many Christmases, especially those with her son, how does she—how do they—“celebrate” Christmas?
It comes like a blow to the stomach, the thought that their story is replayed again and again and again. Sometimes the circumstances of the passing are far worse, sometimes less so. But surely all bear some brokenhearted void.
I dread the thought of Lois’ chair being empty, as I know she dreads the thought of mine. After 53 years of a loving marriage beyond our dreams, how will one of us endure it?
We’ll all come to that Christmas with the empty chair. But , , ,
. . . there was a baby in a manger . . . a sinless God-Man on a cross . . . an empty grave and an ascension into heaven. Without the baby, we have no hope. Without the cross, we’re dead in our sins. And . . .
. . . if we have hope in Christ only for this life,
we are the most miserable people in the world
(1 Corinthians 15:19, NLT).
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
. . . he was buried,
he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
(1 Corinthians 15:3,4, ESV).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16, NIV)
“There are many rooms in my Father’s home,
and I am going to prepare a place for you.
If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.
When everything is ready, I will come and get you,
so that you will always be with me where I am.”
(Jesus, John 14:2,3, NLT).
There is, because of Jesus, another emotion, when we see the Christmas empty chair. Emptiness, yes, but also longing. C. S. Lewis wrote of it . . .
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
It’s our desire “for our own far off country”, he wrote, saying that sometimes we call it “Nostalgia” or “Romanticism” or “Adolescence” or “Beauty”. But . . .
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—
are good images of what we really desire;
but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,
breaking the hearts of their worshipers.
For they are not the thing itself;
they are only the scent of a flower we have not found,
the echo of a tune we have not heard,
news from a country we have never yet visited.
At present we are on the outside of [that]world,
the wrong side of the door . . .
But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour
that it will not always be so.
Someday, God willing, we shall get “in” . . .
And when by God’s grace through simple faith in Christ we do, we will find the empty Christmas chair filled with the one we love—forever.