Celebrating the holidays without someone you love is a mix of emotion. And it seems as though there are so many of us experiencing the mix.
The weight of death feels heavier this time of year. But I like to think of death as Henry Holland put it, as “only slipping alway into the next room.”
And I imagine it at a Christmas party.
When someone you love dies, they are still at the party, just in the next room. They’re not standing next to you, joining in your conversation. They’re not laughing and enjoying the same things you’re enjoying and laughing about. But it’s not because these things cease when you enter the next room. They’re simply in a different conversation, laughing and enjoy different things.
Their presence is still here in this room, and it sometimes feels as though they’ve just walked out.
They’re celebrating Christmas just the same, the only difference being the scenery and the company.
Emmanuel —God is with us, carries a different meaning there.
For us, here in this room, Emmanuel is exciting news of salvation. A word of hope that God himself comes to us, to be with us in a real and omnipresent way. With his grace, we can feel his presence and see a tiny glimpse of his Kingdom. Emmanuel means an end to our sufferings from sin and a hope for peace.
But for those in the next room, the word Emmanuel is a depiction of their constant state of being. God IS with them, body and soul. They see his face with their own eyes. They feel his presence constantly, not with limited human senses but in full. They already know the end of suffering we long for. They already have the peace we hope for.
They look to our room, not with sadness of wanting to rejoin our party, but with joy and anticipation that we will one day join theirs.
For those of you longing for someone in the next room this Christmas, He sees you. They see you. They are proud of you. And they can’t wait for the first Christmas you join them, when all will “laugh at the trouble of parting.”