If Charles Dickens and I had run into each other the other night, we might not have been on the best of terms.
I was thinking about his time-honored tale A Christmas Carol and something in it bothered me.
When Ebenezer Scrooge sees Tiny Tim’s empty chair, it’s just a dream. He can wake up and do something to keep the chair full.
It doesn’t always work that way in real life.
Thinking about yet another Christmas with yet another empty chair is hard. It’s hard even though I got to love the people who sat in those chairs and one of them is empty for an overall happy reason. I don’t claim to know what it’s like for those who have empty chairs that were suddenly made that way.
But it still could make me not feel like getting out all the Christmas decorations.
As I keep pondering, I’m realizing that the reality of the empty chair is one more reason to celebrate Christmas. Oh, maybe it doesn’t necessitate lots of decorations or festive flair, but it still calls for a celebration.
After all, Jesus came because of the sin-caused illness and death that rob chairs of their inhabitants. Jesus’ death-conquering life is what we celebrate at Christmas. Christmas reminds us that – for those who believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:30) – someday there will be no more sickness or pain or death or tears (Revelation 21:4).
Illness won’t tear families apart. Pain won’t cause a grandparent-sized gap. Death won’t take little ones before those who love them get to hold them. Tears won’t fall – they will be wiped away by God Himself (Revelation 21:4).
And, in the meantime, Jesus is making our hearts full.
It’s at Christmas that we may realize this the most, even if the chairs are empty. You see, each one of those empty chairs once held someone I got to love. And I got to be loved by them in sweet – and sometimes quirky – ways. Although their chairs are empty, my heart can be full.
Even better, Jesus is in the business of filling our hearts up with His love – the only Love that lives up to all those I Corinthians 13 qualities, the only Love that lasts forever, the only Love that was made to meet all our needs and seep into all the cold corners of our hearts a little like hot cocoa seeps into us on chill winter nights.
No, the pain doesn’t all go away. That’s something for Someday. We still will (probably) need to keep Kleenex handy at times. There will still be empty chairs this Christmas. Maybe there will even be new vacancies the next.
But, by God grace, there can be full hearts. And maybe, as Jesus is making our hearts full, He will fill up those chairs, too, with new people to love.
With all that in mind, perhaps Charles Dickens and I – if we happened to meet – could actually wish each other a very “Merry Christmas!”