Minute Meditations

The Empty Chair

Perhaps one of the most difficult times we have at Christmas is when we’re facing the loss of someone we have dearly loved. It might be a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a very dear friend. If it’s someone who was important in our lives, the hole they leave in our hearts can be immense, and it’s often magnified still further by the memories that are woven through our Christmas celebrations. We know with our minds and through our faith that our loved ones are still with us in some way we can’t perceive with our human senses. But it’s the sight and sound and touch of them that we miss. On this feast, when we celebrate our God taking on our human flesh, we long for the human, bodily reality of those who have died. 

In the celebration of Advent Lessons and Carols, the prayer at the beginning speaks of remembering “those who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light.” This recollection gives us some degree of comfort, although nothing can take away all the sadness. And perhaps we wouldn’t want it to. The very sadness that we feel, the tears that we cry, are proof that we have loved and been loved. It’s a bittersweet mystery. And some would say that our incarnate God who loves us weeps with us in these times of loss. 

Take some quiet time to think about someone dearly loved and now lost to earthly sight. It might be a recent loss or one that has recently resurfaced. Grief has no solid boundaries of time and space. You might want to look through a photo album, listen to a favorite piece of music, or find some other way to let your emotions surface. As you do, let yourself feel the tenderness of God embracing you, weeping with you, bringing light to the dark places in your heart.

—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

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