The Gift of Emptiness

I distinctly remember having nightmares that Santa, being omniscient and omnipresent and thus able to read my secret thoughts, would leave me coal in my stocking. The only thing worse than coal would be an empty stocking; at least you can use coal like chalk.

Luckily, this horror never actually occurred. Even during the leanest of years financially and the most depraved years behaviorally, our tree and stockings were full- so full that you couldn’t see the floor.

Yet, on this eve of Christmas Eve, I find myself hungry for the gift of emptiness; the once dreaded fear has become an honest desire.

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Empty things can be filled; people emptied of self are the most fully free people.

Kenos is the Greek word meaning to be emptied, without recognition, to be perceived as worthless. Paul uses this particular word in speaking of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-7.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Rather than grasping or taking advantage of His rights, He laid them down. The Incarnation, which is such a picture of fullness for us, meant an incredible emptying for Him. Christ emptied Himself of comfort and nearness to His Father, along with a myriad of other heavenly things for which we probably don’t even have words.

Christ, the fullest human to ever walk the earth, was full by way of emptying himself, pouring himself out to be filled up with will of His father, even when that meant a sure and unfair death.

Emptying: the word sounds simple, but the practice is painful.

This Christmas, as I write this, I have friends who are receiving the painful gift of emptiness: they have empty wombs or empty spots in the bed next them, where a longed for spouse has never been or a long-loved spouse is no longer; they are sitting in the hospital with a dear loved one, wrestling through what-if’s and if-only’s; they have aching holes for a job that fits who they were wired up to be or for a safe place to raise their children.

This emptying business is serious stuff, especially at Christmas, a time where we often exaggerate our fullness. We would do well to create space for emptiness this Christmas, for the empty places in our own lives, as well as for those walking through the excruciating process of being emptied of self and their deepest desires.

The great news is that Christ is drawn to emptiness, and empty people are drawn to Christ.  They say nature hates a vacuum; so does the Lord. He loves to fill empty things.

When speaking to a Church of comfortable people, quite full, too full, in fact, Christ write the following call to emptiness:

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see (Revelation 3:17-18). 

Christ calls us to emptiness so that we might be filled with His fullness, something that cannot be taken away from us. Emptiness doesn’t mean that we must denounce the rich gifts of people and possessions in our lives; rather, it means that those possessions, desires or gifts don’t rule or posses us.

While I do not look forward to the process of getting there, I long for a heart that is willing to be emptied of its own plans and time so it can be filled with His will. I cringe thinking of watching my children have to walk through emptying seasons, yet I find myself praying that, in humble reliance upon divine grace, they will learn to empty themselves in the way of Jesus.

Tomorrow night, as I shove my little fellas’ stockings full of treats and treasures, I will be simultaneously be praying for the gift of emptiness in their lives and my own.

 

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