Empty chairs a part of holiday gatherings

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

By Les Ferguson, Jr.

As I began to write this, it was Easter morning. I find Easter to be joyfully exhilarating. It’s a lot like Christmas because its theological and real-world implications are life-changing. 

Speaking of Christmas, the birth of the Savior is worthy of our praise. Commemorating this time with my church family is a special privilege. Preaching about “Emmanuel, God with us” is thrilling. Celebrating with my family is a tremendous and fun-filled blessing. 

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Those same sentiments are a part of my Easter. I thoroughly enjoy Easter worship with my like-minded believers. I love preaching the story of Jesus and his resurrection. As I said in my Easter sermon, the Resurrection changes everything. 

Being with my wife, sons and other family members and sharing a meal around the table is a joy I never tire of nor take for granted. I’m so thankful that Jesus makes it all possible. 

As joyful and uplifting as these two noteworthy events are, I also find them to be occasions of sadness. This far along in my journey, my sadness is less about outward grief with all its elements and emotions. Instead, my sadness is best described as a growing discontent. 

In larger family gatherings, my dad often speaks of the “empty chairs” in mealtime prayers. The older he gets, the more mindful he is of those who have passed on, those who are no longer here. The older I get, the more I understand exactly where he comes from. 

Hence, the discontent and sadness mentioned above. I love these special times of worship and family, and I’m grateful to have the faculties to participate in and enjoy them. Give me another month or two past tax season, and I’ll be ready to gear up for Christmas again. 

But in the meantime, I’m aware that the Resurrection means the empty chairs won’t stay empty forever. While I find life here now abundantly beautiful and well worth living, there will be a day of grand reunion to look forward to. 

As the old hymn says, “There’s a land that is fairer than day, and by faith, we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”

Yes, the Resurrection changes everything. 

”But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.“ (1 Corinthians‬ 15‬:20‬-22‬ CSB)