If I wasn’t already aware of it, this job makes it painfully clear that Christmastime is a hard time of year for a very many people. I want to reflect on such experiences, using the image of the empty chair.
There is the chair that is empty because a loved one has died since last Christmas. It is literally the chair they used to sit in, and they are not there now.
The empty chair may also represent a life that has not been known, but has been longed for. For the single person who has watched their friends marry, and is facing yet another Christmas without someone to share life with, the empty other half of the sofa. For the couple who have yet again failed to conceive in the last twelve months, the empty high chair.
The empty chair may represent an emotional, rather than physical absence – for the woman trapped in a loveless marriage; for the child whose aging parent no longer knows who they are, the man whose wife no longer recognises him.
So many empty chairs.
Advent is a season of unfulfilled but not abandoned hope. Advent does not pretend that our present night is glorious day; but does not let go of the promise of a bright dawn. Advent is necessary: Advent is a cure to the soul disease of despair and to the soul disease of triumphalism.
Advent recognises that we wait for Christ to come, and that when he comes we will be made whole, in heart and soul and strength and mind.
Through Advent, as you walk into a room where there is an empty chair, let it be a prompt to you to make room for Jesus:
in bringing to him the ‘empty chair’ in your own life, asking him to sit and be enthroned there over our hopes and dreams, exercising his rule of peace, the experience of healing;
in bringing to him the ‘empty chair’ in the life of a friend or neighbour, work colleague or family member, and asking him to be their comforter and hope now, and always.
Advent: making room for Jesus – in the empty chair.