There’s an empty plate at the table. There’s a strange silence that comes from that spot as the dishes are passed from person to person. She was always the last to sit down, making sure everyone was served first. When everyone was served, then she sat down. That plate was empty today for the first time.

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

There’s an empty chair in the den. The graying haired man is not there, feet propped up, dozing on and off after a good meal. There are not children running up and asking to be held. The chair is motionless, no one rocking, squeaking with a slow back and forth flow. The chair is empty today; no one sits there for the first time.

There’s an empty silence in the room. The room is filled with people, moving around, talking, laughing, giggling and active. But in all the noise there is an eerie silence. There’s a missing laugh. It was a laugh that without seeing the person, you knew who it was bellowing out over the crowd. You listen and can almost hear it, but this room filled with people is silent today, the laugh, the voice is but a weak memory.

There’s an empty tree in the corner. Oh, it’s full of gifts, but some are missing. In your mind, you see the little one run in excitement to see what Santa brought. With eager expectation they rip open the neatly wrapped presents and squeal with excitement. But today, the tree full of gifts is empty.

Christmastime is a time of joy and happiness. It’s a time when families gather together to be with each other, laugh with each other and just enjoy time together. It’s a time to think about baby Jesus lying in a manger. It’s a time to read “A Christmas Carol” with everyone at the end reciting, “and God bless us every one!” It’s a time to watch the Grinch change his heart and watch it grow “three sizes that day!”

But to some, Christmas this year will be sad. It will be the first time without a loved one. A father, mother, wife, husband, child, brother, sister will not be there. The year will have been one of loss. A loss so deep that when the holidays come, we hurt in the middle of the joy taking place. We feel empty inside even though the time is one filled with the delight of the season. We are told they are in a better place. We believe they are in a better place. But today, we wish they were here to give one more hug, hear one more laugh or see them sitting across the room one more time.

As you go through this season, take time to remember those who have an emptiness this season. Understand why they may not be laughing or smiling like usual. Understand that although they are in a house full of people that they may be experiencing an emptiness of loss.

Don’t ask them if they are okay. Don’t tell them to cheer up. Don’t get mad at them if they leave the room in tears. The best thing you can do is just go up and hug them, maybe a kiss on the cheek or just sit next to them in silence.

For many at this time of the year there is an empty place in the heart. It’s a place that is full of memories, but empty still the same. It is in that emptiness and silence that Jesus sits beside us and weeps with us.


When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.–John 11:33-35

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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