Christmas Eve at our house is anything but a "Silent Night." How about "Family Circus"?
Each year brings a lot of high-energy, high-decibel giving and opening of gifts. One year, somewhere in the flying wrapping paper, was one overwhelmed two-year-old. Quietly dazed amid the happy din.
There was one person who noticed. Grandma. Of course.
My Karen slipped inobtrusively to the floor. And found a corner where she and our little guy were quietly working on the toy he had just opened. Oblivious to the mayhem all around them. Grandma had created a safe zone in the midst of the craziness.
A bewildered little boy had found one safe place. The place was a person. Someone who loved him very, very much.
That's where I've found my one safe place. Along with countless millions of others like me. In Someone who loves me very, very much. His love is written in blood. Shed on a cross to pay for my sins against Him. So I could be forgiven. And be with Him in heaven forever.
For many years, He blessed me beyond words by letting me do life with a woman who so radiantly embodied His love.
But, for the first time in my adult life, the queen of my Christmas will be missing at Christmas. She went Home so suddenly in May, on that day like no other. So while we're singing and reading about Jesus, she will be with Him, face-to-face.
I just received a note from a friend that captured in a sentence the heart of this family. The note said, "It seemed someone so fully alive and vibrant couldn't possibly have left us." That says it all.
In this first "empty chair Christmas," she is so missing. And so missed. She was, in many ways, a harbor for me on my stormiest days. Then, in an instant, I was on my own.
So I guess I'm that shell-shocked little boy this Christmas. And Grandma won't be here.
But my Safe Place will be.
Because "nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). The only love on earth that is deathproof. I have tested - and proven in my darkest hour - that "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are safe" (Proverbs 18:10).
When the grief ambushes suddenly trigger the tears again, the anchor holds. When the loneliness resurfaces without warning, He holds me closer. When the prospect of doing the years ahead without my baby chills my soul, He whispers, "I've got this, Ron. And I've got you."
But my greatest heartache this Christmas is not for me. Or even for our children and grandchildren who adored her so. They have her Jesus.
My heart aches for so many who face great loss and brokenness without that one Safe Place. The death-conquering Savior who said, "I am leaving you with a gift - a peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27).
But I know that peace is within their reach - as it has been for me. By pinning all their hopes on Jesus - what He did for us on the cross. What He won for us at His empty tomb.
I know there will be some tender - even overwhelming - moments this Christmas. There already have been.
But Someone who loves me very, very much will move in close.
And in His arms I will be safe.