We’re coming down to the wire with Christmas. Only a few more days to go. Some of us have already started with family get-togethers and office parties. Hopefully, by now you’ve picked up your Christmas spiral-sliced ham and got your ingredients for the scalloped potatoes. Me? Just give me cranberry sauce, ham on a roll, and maybe a bit of stuffing. We eat until we’re stuffed, and then sneak into the fridge for leftovers around midnight.
It’s remarkable how much of our collective Christmas celebrations revolve around food. I mean, as long as you have a good spread and happy people, the gifts under the tree don’t matter as much. After all, what is a celebration without yummy food? It brings it all goes together: The laughter we share, the stories we rehash from yesteryear. The game of UNO or Euchre that can get dangerous if you cross Aunt Marcie.
For many of us, however, there will be an empty chair this year, and not because of a loved one passing away. For many of us, Christmas brings back memories more bitter than sweet when we consider those who, by our choice or theirs, are not at our table. Maybe they decided they were better than you or better off without you. Perhaps they chose someone else or another family over yours. I know of far too many people who have decided to leave their own families for some dream lifestyle or a fling that ended in disaster. In other cases, I know stories of people who haven’t spoken to their kids or their siblings in years. You know those stories too. You may be one of those stories.
I’m not trying to get into why or if we should cut people from our lives. There are times when God actually encourages it (“avoid divisive people”, etc.). It’s very possible that our lives are far better, even safer with those people not at our table. You can love someone, and care about them, without liking them very much. My point in all of this is to acknowledge the real pain many people feel.
Now, with that alienation in mind, think about God. We are, on our own, each separated by God. Not because God didn’t care enough to invite us to the potluck, but because each of us, in our own way, have chosen to ignore him. To leave our Father’s house and go after something we perceived as better. Some of us are still blinded by the glitz and thrill of deception. Others have come to their senses but not returned because of pride. No one likes admitting they were wrong, so they tend to wallow in pity and blame the innocent for the separation.
That’s where Christmas comes in. Jesus changes things. Listen to the words of Paul in 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I’m an idealist. I’m always hoping that things change, that people come to their senses (and to Jesus), and that things can be restored. I rarely block anyone on social media, despite themselves, because I’m always hopeful. Why? Because if Jesus can bring me, a sinner, into the presence of God the Father, perfect and blameless, then I know He can help reconcile me with others.
This year, even if your table has an empty space, thank God that He has reconciled us to Himself. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll work in someone else’s life too.