The following is a guest post by John Ashley, pastor, writer, and grieving father.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, people seem to have a spirit of goodwill.  This is a season of giving, charities generally have an increase of donations at Christmas time.  This may be due to the fact that there is only a week or so left in the calendar year, and people want to get a deduction.  But, I would like to think it is because people want to help others during the Christmas season.

This time of year is also difficult for many people.  The Christmas season is a reminder of those we will not see this year.  As families gather, there will be some empty places around the holiday dinner table. This is the fourth Christmas for me and my wife without our son, Johnny.  Our parents have all passed away and there are other relatives and friends that have gone on before us, we will miss them all dearly.

There will be empty places at the table, in the house, and in our hearts this Christmas.  These empty places cannot be filled with activities or the busyness of the season. The void will always be there. However, there are some steps we can take to honor the memory of our missing loved ones.  I have 3 suggestions that will help as we try to keep the good memories alive.

  • Be sure to talk about your dearly departed loved one who died.  Bring up stories and good memories of them. Remember that everyone that knew them, misses them also.
  • Set a picture out of your loved one in a prominent place so people can see that you are willing to have conversations about them. Many times people won’t want to talk about your loved one, because they don’t want to make you sad. Seeing a picture out is like an invitation to talk about them.
  • If you have a friend or family member that has lost someone close to them, acknowledge the fact that you understand that they are hurting this time of year.  Send a card, make a call, or send a loving text letting them know, that you know that they hurt.

It may be that during this time of year you have an empty place in your heart.  You may not have lost a loved one, yet, you feel that something is missing in your life.

This very season we celebrate God becoming a man to bring us all peace.  Not the peace that the world seeks, the absence of conflict, but an inner peace that can only come from knowing the one who’s birth we celebrate.

Jesus said in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (KJV) Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah.  The angels that announced Christ’s birth declared “Peace on earth.”  Jesus brings peace into the hearts of all those that will receive His gift this Christmas.

Jesus grew and became a man, lived a sinless life, then died on the cross to pay for the penalty of sin for all of mankind.  He offers all the gift of peace today, by trusting in the work He did for sin.

Agree with God today and admit we are sinners, in need of forgiveness.  Agree that you believe Christ paid the price of your sin personally.  Ask God to forgive you, and accept Jesus as your Savior.

If you would do that today, that void in your heart will no longer be empty.  You will always miss your loved ones, but the feeling that something more is missing in your life will be satisfied.  You can experience the Christ of Christmas like never before.  You then can know the true peace this Christmas.

John Ashley, In Spite of Ministries

John Ashley is a Christian, husband, father, grandfather, former pastor, author and evangelist. He and his wife Joann have co-authored the book “Finding Grace and Peace IN SPITE OF Trials and Tragedy, The Johnny Ashley Story.” A book written about their son, Johnny’s life and the inspiration he was to countless people. The book is also a testimony of how the Lord has sustained their family through the many years of having their faith consistently put to the test. It is their firm belief that God gave them their son Johnny, and His strength so that they can use what the Lord has taught them to be a help to others. Everyone has an “In Spite Of ” in their lives; some big, some small in comparison, but each one is real to those experiencing them. John has also authored the book: “The Compassionate Shepherd.” It is a work devoted to teaching people how to best help those experiencing trials and grief in their lives. Having been a caregiver and a pastor, John has been on both sides of trials; needing comfort and comforting others. He teaches Biblical, practical methods in how to encourage others in the midst of their heartache. John and Joann travel and share their journey through their trials and how God taught and strengthened them throughout their years as caregivers and their son’s home going. With great passion and compassion, John Ashley also encourages and challenges those in his audience to see their in spite of in a different light; not as a problem that God has allowed into their lives, but as an opportunity to see God’s power in operation personally.

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