Unpacking Christmas: The Empty Seat

Originally published Thursday, 19 December 2013.

The first Christmas came pregnant with anticipation and the heralding of angels upon lowly shepherds in a dim-lit field. For thirty-three years Mary remembered the night her son, our Savior, was born. She pondered the events in her heart and poured over the man the Son had become. On the thirty-fourth year after His birth, she found herself celebrating an unexpected Christmas: God and Son reunited, mother and Son separated by heaven and earth.

As we remember this Christmas the angels heralding his birth, we too may find ourselves celebrating an unexpected Christmas like Mary's 34th Christmas. A Christmas celebration marked by loss even as we are cradled in the cross of Christ. The Father empathizes with our empty place settings at the table this Christmas. He sees every tear and knows the aching of our hearts. The loved ones who are united now with the Father have left a scar on our souls; a separation that only death can bring. Thankfully death lost its final sting at the resurrection, and those who were in Christ in life now celebrate Christmas with the One of whom it was prophesied:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ~Isaiah 53:4-6

The separation from our loved ones is potentially temporary because Christ first separated Himself from the Father. He brought us peace in His pain and healing in His affliction. No one comprehends the sorrows of a grieving heart like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Indeed He sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and gives grace in our grief. As unexpected Christmas's are celebrated all around the world, petitions are made to the One who brought us eternal peace asking Him to pour His healing balm on temporal suffering hearts once more.