By Clayton Adams ‘A Word from the Pastor’
My wife, Laurie Adams, writes daily and weekly devotionals on her blog spot ‘Women Taking A Stand’ at http://www.womentakingastand.blogspot.com and for ‘Laced With Grace’ at http://www.lacedwithgrace.com. For all who have experienced and those who are experiencing their first Christmas without a family member or friend, it is my prayer you find strength and encouragement from this very personal writing. By Laurie Adams: Last year at Christmas, there was an empty chair. Even though Mom had left this worldly place for her eternal home the summer before last, the first Christmas without her was very lonely and … empty! I caught myself shopping for that special gift to send Mom last Christmas. And when I printed off the family Christmas address labels, I had to skip over her name. Not being able to buy her a gift and not being able to address a card was bad enough, but then there was that empty feeling each day that I went to the mailbox and there was no card from her. That first year without her just seemed so empty. Seemed like I was just going through the motions with no emotion. Everyone said it was to be expected but even though there was that empty seat at the table, no one seemed to want to talk about it. The question just seemed to linger in the air, until finally someone was brave enough to ask: “Are we missing someone?” Well, there did seem to be one too many forks and place settings. And then there was that “empty” chair. As I thought about the missing Christmas card and the present that I wanted to buy but was still at the store and as I looked at the empty seat I began to remember the Christmases past. I remember the year that when I was just 5 or 6 years old, Mom had “Santa” show up with our presents. And then there was the year that we didn’t have much money because my step dad had been laid off, but somehow I still got the stereo that I wanted and a mood ring! (anyone remember the mood rings?) Suddenly, the empty chair turned my mourning into a sacrifice of praise. In the midst of my sadness and missing my Mom, I realized that there was a reason for joy and love on that Christmas Day…“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) I don’t know who or what your empty chair represents this Christmas; perhaps, it is the loss of a dear loved one this past year, perhaps it is the loss of job or empty promises made, or it could be due to conflict with family members. Whatever the cause for your empty chair, I know it hurts and it is sad, but with God, He can bring joy in the midst of your heartache. Even though we mourn our loss or suffer in our difficult situation, remember that Christmas is a time that we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, which means “God with us.” What a comforting thought to know that in ALL seasons that God is not only with us, but He is continually our Prince of Peace in times of turmoil and distress. There will still be an empty seat at the table this Christmas. I wish I could tell you that it gets easier the second time around, but the emptiness still remains. Yet, somehow this year, the peace and joy that only comes from knowing that Christ is in control fills that seat that once belonged to my precious Mom. Perhaps you find yourself hurting this holiday season, I pray that you will stand upon the promise of the Lord that He causes ALL things “to work together for good” (Romans 8:28) and seek His peace during your time of sorrow. Not everything that happens is good, but God is always good. May you see Christ when you look over at your empty seat, this year and all years to come. Clayton Adams is pastor at Earle First Assembly of God. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find Earle First Assembly on Facebook.