I stand there in the pawn shop with tears welling up to the brink of spilling over onto my cheeks. We’d found the perfect gift for our 13-year-old boy. A starter guitar. Cool looking, electric, and red. It’s perfect, even with a few imperfections.
It’s exactly what a 13-year-old boy might dream of. It gives him the cool-dude image, but being gently used is reasonable for a teenager that at any moment could decide it’s not his thing anymore and tuck that guitar into a corner to never to be seen again. And as a parental bonus—an amp with volume control.
I imagine, just for a moment what it would be like to actually give that guitar to the boy we bought it for, what it would be like to know my boy as a 13-year-old and to really know the thing he wanted most for Christmas.
And that’s where the tears threaten to make their appearance because you see, there are some children who don’t have gifts for Christmas, but there are also some gifts that don’t have children.
The child for this guitar no longer comes to the tree on Christmas morning, sleepy-eyed with tousled hair looking to see what he got. His physical presence will forever be missing from our celebrations. I will not see his big satisfied smile and his first off-key strum on that shiny guitar.
Oh, how I long for the child who belongs to that gift.
Advent is a time to highlight the longing that comes with the wait.
During this time of preparation, we often see an empty stable or an empty manger waiting to hold the fulfillment of a promise. We see a Holy family with someone missing.
And it reminds me that I, too, am in a period of waiting. I wait with an empty crib, an empty car seat, an empty bedroom, and an empty space in our holy family for the fulfillment of a promise. One day, all will be made right. Every emptiness will be filled. Perfect love will be overflowing, and every desire for togetherness will be met.
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So until then, we wait with patience, and gentleness, and hope, and sorrow, and joy. We let the longing that we feel drive us to prepare our hearts and our souls to receive the gift of that promise.
We wait for the day that missing child will be placed back in our arms.
And while we wait, we honor the gift that has no child by placing it into the hands of the child with no gift.
We open ourselves to the moments of joy that are still present and we hold space for the sorrow that remains while we wait. And when that promise of heaven is fulfilled, I will be among all the voices of Heaven and earth rejoicing.