Advent (Day 20): Emptiness in Heaven

Dec 20, 2013

Before I began writing these Advent reflections, I had a very general structure in mind. The whole series would move, I thought, from dark to light, from ordinary to extraordinary, from dust and dirt to starlight.

Oh, the best laid plans.

Instead, I have consulted this writing plan each morning and discovered my own emptiness. No words. No stories. No ideas. Which is a desperate place and a very good place to find oneself. It has led me to frantic prayer and constant listening. Finding no stories in the plan, I have listened hard for any hint of story in my day.

Often, I have found my stories in my daughter’s difficult observations.

Yesterday, she said, “I think it must be the worst thing in the world to have a child who dies.”

little lights bw

I am a writer, and I abhor a platitude. An easy answer. The cliché we use to bypass actual thought. Even so, it can be tempting to fall back on those things when we are faced with the unanswerable and the terrible. But I have learned a few things from writing and from reading, and I have learned a few things mothering this daughter.

I fight the pull of the pretty, easy answer and say nothing but “Yes, yes, I know.”

She is only ten, but she already understands love’s terrible shadow. She knows intuitively, without ever being taught, that great love rips us open. Leaves us wounded and bleeding.

I have no good answers for these kinds of questions. I have no band-aid for this degree of pain. Today, I do not even have much of a story. And the writing plan? Well, that has been entirely abandoned. Sometimes, the world looks darker and more ordinary the closer we get to Christmas. Sometimes, there is no perfect, timely trajectory from Advent waiting to Christmas fulfillment.

But if I have no story, I do have this one thing to share with you. A vision of sorts.

After our conversation, I kept seeing a picture in my mind. It was my daughter, so full of difficult questions and a grief too old for her years, and she was wearing her angel costume. It is white and shimmery, and the padded, embroidered wings are gold.

I kept seeing her sad eyes against the white glow of the angel’s dress, and I realized, I think for the first time, how much our Christmas gift was heaven’s loss.

I realized how vast an emptiness the Prince of Heaven left behind him when he poured himself into Mary’s womb.

I looked into angel eyes, and they seemed to say, “We have lost him. We have said goodbye. How long till he returns to us?”

I can’t erase love’s dark shadow, and I’m not sure I would if I could. But I know that the parent heart of God has known it all already. I know he has passed by a heavenly chamber and found it empty. Heart-breakingly empty. And I know he suffered that pain for love.

And yet, the emptiness of heaven at the moment of incarnation is as much good news as the emptiness of the tomb.

This is the good news of God-with-us. This is the good news of our restoration.

This is the comfort of believing God sees our emptiness, our pain and says, “Yes, yes, I know.”




  1. Kris Camealy

    Oh Christie. Oh my goodness. I am sitting here a mess of tears. How have I never once considered heavens loss to send Christ to us? Unimaginable…. Oh friend. You have given me a gift today–a perspective I’ve never had. God has His own plan for your series, He is so clearly inspiring this. Thank you for your obedience.

  2. Ashlie

    Christie, this is just…completely beautiful. I’m in tears. What a beautiful, raw story you found when you thought you had none. So blessed by your obedience. I was introduced to your blog when Kris Camealy shared on her page, and girl, you have a GIFT. Your writing is anointed. Please keep going, especially on those days when you feel the emptiness the most…He definitely shows up, it’s pretty clear to those of us who are blessed by your determination to lean in to Him. Blessings to you!!

    • Christie Purifoy

      I’m so blessed by your words, Ashlie. Thank you.

  3. Glenda Childers

    As a parent, preparing our kids for lives pain is one of the hardest parenting tasks there is, in my opinion. And, you are right … so much Good News (Jesus), too.


  4. Hannah

    Sometimes the high-stakes living we are forced to engage in angers and terrifies me. The Fall happened, and there is nothing I can do to change that. Our redemption means the lamb had to be slain, and that our nature must be crucified and remade. I chafe against the pain of it all. I want to live easy and shadow-free. The shadow gives me anxiety.

    I just read something by Henri Nouwen that said fear is slowly transformed into desire. I still chafe against the words ‘Whom have I in heaven but you?’ yet I find myself saying them, and also, Come Lord Jesus. The fear becomes longing and desire, and the Spirit within us is a down payment of the shadow-free life.

  5. amy

    emptiness in heaven. that’s certainly something I’ve never considered until now. thank you for writing, even when the words are slow in coming.

  6. Gwen Acres

    I take comfort from your words and a small wee bird sitting on my gate. Both tell me that God is present. Christmas is so breathtakingly beautiful in all its glory, and mystery. Yet my soul aches….for myself, my children , my world. And the ache seems larger at Christmas. Thank you for showing me the Father’s heart of loss. He understands.

  7. kelli woodford

    Just four words here, friend:

    Out. Of. The. Park.

  8. Ashley Larkin @ Draw Near

    Oh, Christie. My heart yearns with the pain of this and the beauty. I am grateful that you ignore the platitude and reject the neat trajectory to tell the truth. And this vision — I’m just dumbstruck. Thank you once again for your offering.

  9. HisFireFly

    heaven ached and wept
    empty and longing

    this was beautiful
    a truth we forget

    oh, His great love

  10. Diana Trautwein

    This one just shimmers, Christie. Thanks so much.

  11. Becky Brower

    Yes, yes I know. As a mother who has lost a young child, this has really touched me. He was only 10…last December. There are really no answers or anything to fill my emptiness. Great love for sure rips us open, believe me…I am still ripped apart. Thanks for your comforting words.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Dear Becky – You’ve been on my mind ever since you left your comment. I’m so glad you shared a little of your story. So, so glad you found some comfort in my words. I can only imagine what this season is like for you – may the God of all comfort be near. May he have mercy on us all in 2014.



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