Here we are standing thigh-deep in glittering red and green–or in my case, the glittering white of the season. It’s not going away for a couple more weeks–it will only intensive. Love or loathe it, Christmas celebration is part of the cultural life-cycle that spins our immediate world.
Lights, sparkle, candles, scents, ribbons, baking, colors–all of it is great, I love the warm fuzzies the holiday season brings–even though a ton of it is really cheezy.
This is going to be really profound: Christmas is not about the warm fuzzies.
It’s about the gnawing emptiness that won’t go away. Maybe that is exactly why some loathe this season–the warm fuzzies of Christmas just don’t fill it.
“The Angel Appears to the Shepherds” by Rembrandt
That gnawing emptiness drove the shepherds to a dirty stable on a lonely night to worship a baby–the Promised One–with the angels. That gnawing emptiness drove the magi to travel for months across ancient lands and terrain to offer their kingly, prophetic gifts. That gnawing emptiness caused Herod to slay all the first-born male children. That gnawing emptiness caused Mary, the mother of Jesus, to trust and believe the strange words of an angel.
“The Journey of the Magi” by Tissot
That gnawing emptiness drove me years ago as a child to the foot of a manager and then the foot of a cross.
But the truth is no matter how old I get or developed in my “faith,” I still try to plug in new and different things into that gnawing emptiness… cars, furniture, houses, clothes, high-tech gadgets, education, good deeds, kindness, writing, church stuff, etc.
And I have to stop–even shake myself free from its grip.
As Americans we are teetering on the brink of economic meltdown. The warm fuzzies of Christmastime will soon be over, and the reality of life with less stuff to fill that gnawing emptiness is around the corner.
We will be tested.
A couple of years ago, I overheard someone talking about a powerful worship time. He said that many in the service understood they may become “martyrs” for the Lord one day. They were ready.
I know holy moments like these can occur, but I asked him if he could do without his cell phone for a week. He looked shocked, and exclaimed, “No way!”
I also heard someone say that he was called to do some work overseas but would only travel first-class. I asked if God’s call upon his life changed if he could only travel coach… He had no answer.
Ipods, iphones, first-class tickets abroad are the little drops of blood on the surface that foretell of hemorraghing on the inside… These are the things with which we fill that gnawing emptiness… It is easy to be a martyr and harder to go without a cell phone or fly to India on a mission in coach!
The unknown of tomorrow is reminding me this warm fuzzy Christmas of where I came from and where I am going. I am desperate for God’s mercy and love to shine upon me… to fill my gnawing emptiness again and again with His resplendent beauty and unfathomable love.
Without Him, I am nothing but a bundle of gnawing emptiness… I want to be dazzled by Him alone!
The most beautiful thought at Christmas is that one of God’s names is Immanuel, “God with us.” It means He is with us and not against us. He is here and not somewhere else attending to more important things. He is here, and I am not alone.
Gnawing emptiness drives me to eat living bread and drink water that will make me never thrist again. If I am still thirsty, then I didn’t drink deep enough.
Gnawing emptiness becomes the fertile soil in which the seeds of faith spring up and bring a harvest of good fruit–the very fruit we may need to eat in 2009.