This Christmas there will be a few more empty seats around our family table. Mine will be empty for the fifth year in a row, simply because I’m sitting halfway across the world. But my brother and grandmother have traded their earthly seats for eternal ones.
Although I won’t be there. I’m pretty sure how it’s going to play out. I can almost smell the mixed aroma of barbecued meat fresh from the grill and potato bake from the oven, hands reaching out towards each other to say grace. Tears escaping through the cracks of closed eyelids.
Then one of my uncles will probably break the awkward silence with a lame joke.
Some moments amplify the empty spaces. Sometimes we truly “do not realise what we have, until it’s gone.” Hopefully the empty seats will serve as a reminder not to take those sitting right next to us for granted. The new high chairs added to our own tables.
I cannot help but wonder if we sometimes take God for granted. Knowing He is always with us, that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. The empty seats may remind us of what we have lost, but if we could truly see we will know that He is there too. Filling the empty seats and all the space between us – even across continents.
Christmas is so much more than a reminder of a baby who lay in a crib over 2000 years ago. It is a reminder of the greatest gift, the undeserved blessing of His presence. Not only did He come to be with us, He also made a way for us to be with Him forever.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” – John 14:1-4
We know He is the way and this is our comfort and our joy.
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalms 16:11
Another gift he gave us is the gift of peace:
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:26-27
Looking back at this year I can testify that the peace He gives is definitely not from this world. I don’t want to take any of it for granted. As much as my heart longs to be in many places, I can only fill one seat and perhaps one of the greatest gifts I can give my loved ones is to be fully present wherever I end up sitting.
My prayer is that everywhere you turn this coming year, you will be reminded of His presence.
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