We put up this tree, with its lights and ornaments. We decorate this house with lights and garland and pictures and candles and the manger scene, and we say It is Christmastime.
We read the stories, listen to the music, bake the treats. We shop and wrap gifts, write cards, sing carols, visit the shut-ins, throw parties, light the candles and clean the house for guests and take goodies to the neighbors. We do all the things that say It is Christmastime.
Even as the space under the tree fills with gifts from brother to sister, aunt to nephew, I feel separated, wild, and far from all the joy and peace and silent holiness of it. I blame the busyness, the pressure, the hyper kids, the rain and the mud and the laundry. I’m tired, worn out, desperately wanting a rest but failing to find it.
I read Mary’s words of praise– copy them in my journal:
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
I feel hungry and I want to be filled with good things. I nod at that; stop short at the next line– why would my good Father, who gives good gifts, send the rich away empty? I stare at the stack of gifts under my tree. I think of my big house, my full freezer, my dresser overflowing with clothes I never wear. I think of my fullness, my wealth by the standards of so much of this world. I think of my husband, my children, my friends and family. Rich– I am so rich.
Would this God of mine, the God who sent His Son to be my Immanuel, would He send me away empty? Why?
I have learned something in this year of sacrifice, and that is that emptiness is a gift. How can my God fill me with good things if I am not hungry? If I am so full of myself, my flesh, my possessions, my comfort, my family, my responsibilities, my whatever that I don’t recognize the deep cravings of my heart as what they are? I have learned– am learning– the gift of hunger, of thirst, of weakness and emptiness.
The only thing I really need is Jesus, and I am so empty without Him. But that gets masked by all of the things that go along with being rich, being full. And so He empties me– not because He is cruel, vindictive, unloving. Not because He loves the hungry more than He loves me, but because He knows that when I am hungry and thirsty for His righteousness that I am ready to be filled with all the good things He has promised.
The stockings hang tonight, empty and waiting for tomorrow night’s filling. Fifty-one weeks into my year of sacrifice, I am learning to be empty too, to be hungry, to wait.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.