Empty Halls, Empty Homes

This post has been on my mind for quite some time, but with Christmas upon us it hit even harder. Though I have wanted to write it, I just don’t even know where to begin, or how to put what I feel into words. That seems to be the case more often than not these day.

The thought “empty halls” originally occurred to me months ago. I work in Children’s ministry at my church. We have large children’s wing with a central hall the runs the length of the wing with many different classrooms for different age environments.. Before the virus, on any given Sunday we would have upwards of 230-250 kids spread across 2 services. The hall would always be full of parents and kids, talking laughing, checking out the candy store to spend their points and just a general atmosphere of fun. On a holiday or a special event, which we do several of through out the year, the excitement and the number of kids would be even greater. Since the virus that is no longer the case. Events have been limited or even non-existent because of restrictions and safety issues. The number of kids who now attend at times was maybe 1/3 of what it once was and lately, even less than that.

This past weekend was our Christmas celebration weekend. Normally before the virus, we would have had hundreds of kids in the hall, we would be playing Christmas music and handing out cookies to everyone who walked down the hall.. We used to do this every weekend throughout the month of December, often theming our weekend for different cultures and handing out treats specific to that culture during the holiday season. This year, was so different. The hall was quiet and even though we still had music playing and handed out pre-wrapped candy canes, we only saw around 30 kids across those 2 services. Empty Hall.

I thought about schools as well and how on the day before Christmas break, the halls would be buzzing with excitement of the upcoming holiday, where now, in most schools, the halls are empty and kids are home.

Then my sister made a comment last night that really drove home the “empty” theme for me. My sisters and I video called our mother to give her a gift we had all purchased for her, In the name of safety, we decided the best way to do this was over video. I snuck over to my moms home and left the gift on her porch. We then video called her and told her to go out on her porch and get the gift. She was excited and it was fun, but of course not the same as all being in the same room and watching her open it. Then one of my sister showed us her Christmas Tree over video. She said “here look at my tree because otherwise, nobody is going to see it”. Empty homes.

All across the world, Christmas is here and homes are empty. Empty of family and friends that make this season so special. Empty of laughter that comes when all your family is together and joking about things that are unique to your family, Empty of grandparents and cousins. Empty. In the name of safety and protection, restrictions have been put in place but to what end? The truth is, there is no easy answer and no easy solution. Everyone has their own thoughts and opinions, as they have since this horrid virus began almost a year ago. What do we do? Do we get together as family and risk someone getting sick, do we stay home alone and risk depression especially in our older family members who may end up entirely alone? Do we risk not seeing grandparents when there is a chance this is their last Christmas? What do we do? This seems to be the question of the hour. Honestly, I don’ know what the answer is and I am sure it is different for every family.

So what do we do when we don’t know what to do? We pray. We remember where our hope truly lies. We remember that whether we are alone or with family we can have joy and peace because those things are not based on circumstance, they are based on a person, Jesus! We remind ourselves of the hope that Christmas brings, the reminder that God came to live with us, to live for us, to die for us, and to rise from the grave conquering sin and death. We smile knowing that while right now we may not be able to celebrate with family, one day we will celebrate in heaven and the celebration will never end!

I don’t know what your tomorrow looks like, I don’t even know what my tomorrow looks like, but I pray that across the world families are able to be together. That hope will rise out of the darkness that surrounds us this holiday season. My prayer for all us tomorrow and this coin year is this,

“because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

Lord in the midst of uncertainty and darkness, shine your light on us and guide out feet to the path of peace. May God bless each of you the Christmas! Merry Christmas!

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