The family filed into the into the small three-bedroom ranch five or six at a time. In a matter of moments, the quiet kitchen erupted into bedlam. Men and women, boys and girls mobbed the single, elderly woman who moments before shuffled dishes in and out of the oven.
Younger ones clamored for Grandma's attention while their parents tried to jump in and help with setting the table, filling up the water glasses and making sure everyone had a napkin at their place.
Cousins got reacquainted in the toy room as they hauled out well-worn Barbies, a myriad of stuffed animals and a familiar fire truck. Soon squeals of delight could be heard over the din of sirens and juvenile conversation.
When it seemed like the little living room couldn't hold another person, another off-shoot of the family arrived with three kids and a puppy that wouldn't be left home alone.
While all appeared right with the world, some of the participants adopted stage persona that masked quite different feelings. Since last the family yule, something terrible happened. The central figure of this patriarchy had gone missing.
Although everyone felt something about the disappearance, a few ached to their core. As much as they tried to preserve the beauty and fun of the holiday - for the sake of the children and each other, they fooled no one. The edge in their voice. A stifled gasp passing his favorite chair. A single tear quickly wiped away. Still, ten loud conversations covered the unspoken truth.
Perhaps the strongest terror of life is the separation from objects of our affection. Once love is known, how can anyone forget? Maybe that's why hell is described as outer darkness: a lonely void.
At the dinner table, the seemingly impossible happened. Everyone gathered around and managed to grow silent. The chair at the head of the table, occupied for as long as the oldest sibling could remember sat vacant. Instead of father, the woman who cooked most of the food and prepared the party took his place. Fittingly, her big heart and kind manner proved the only possible salve for the aching hearts staring in her direction.
"Can we all bow our heads?" she asked. "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all your blessing since we were all together last. Mend our broken hearts and fill us with your joy at this special season. Thank you for the birth of your son that is our savior. Now bless this food and our conversation. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen."
With that simple prayer of thanksgiving, the worst of my grief passed. Somehow, Dad's absence became bearable as the palpable separation turned to thankfulness for all those who were present.
A Future Together
As life progressed these many years, Mom also passed to the other side and is no doubt united with Jesus and my father. It would be easy to live in the past and feel nothing but hurt from the first Christmas light. But for a savior, my melancholy temperament may have required it. My deepest feelings of separation pale when reminded of the temporary nature of this life.
Jesus makes all the difference. He ensures that one day soon, I too will join all those I love in paradise. Because of His sacrifice on the cross and my acceptance of His free gift, eternity will include many spectacular reunions and infinite celebrations in heaven.
My deepest hope is that you will join us in paradise. If you have not already, please accept the free gift of Jesus and his forgiveness for your sins. Make Him Lord of your whole heart. Then, get ready for any amazing party like no other. The end is coming soon and we all will face our maker. Let your eternal life start this very minute.
To those who read my blog, thank you so much. You mean so much to me. I hope your Christmas brings a new appreciation for all your blessings. Take a moment to reach out and help someone who needs you this Christmas. This time of year, many people could use an angel like you. If I can ever pray for you or offer a friendly word, I would love to do so. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David L. Winters is the author of four books with a fifth expected in January, 2019. Pick up Taking God to Work on our website or at any on-line outlet where great books are sold.