You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:28 (NIV)
While I am a Christian and do believe that God is in control of this world, works everything out even the tough times for good and has good plans for me, sometimes, life is harder to take than other times. Because I am not a saint and I rarely suffer in silence, I feel the need to say that despite my best efforts, despite the two trees all decorated and shining, the lights on my house, the plate of cookies on the counter and the growing pile of presents hidden away in a corner of my room, I feel no Christmas spirit, only a gnawing sense of emptiness. Some of it comes from changes in my life, adult children, older parents and physical ailments. But, I really think that a lot of it comes from my job sucking every bit of life out of me. I love my job most days. It gives me flexibility to do a variety of different tasks. I meet interesting people, hear incredible stories and work with old buildings and artifacts. But, lately, getting up in the morning requires a lot of effort. As our staff has changed this year, I am the one who takes on the responsibilities of the vacated position. In these days of doing more with less, there is no other staff person to shoulder that burden. So, over the year, I have attended court hearings, read cases of children in foster care, worked with juvenile delinquents, designed educational programs, written grants, assembled newsletters and conducted teacher workshops. And now with the departure of the maintenance person at one of our historical sites, I am sweeping acorns from the courtyard, cleaning toilets, stringing Christmas lights on a train, hanging bows on street lamps and negotiating a contract for rat removal in the barn. As exhausted as I am, I think that perhaps this is the best way to be at Christmas. Because it is a reminder that God wants us to come to Him empty and needing to be filled. God specializes in emptiness. He also had an “empty nest” as His son left heaven to come to earth in the form of a human baby. Then, that baby grew to be a man leaving behind a vacant manager and dying on a cross. His body left that cross standing alone as He was laid in a borrowed tomb. But, only for three days. Then, it too was empty. Out of all this emptiness, God Himself was glorified, and we become redeemed and new by this great act of sacrifice and love. There is nothing I can bring to God to earn that love. Because it is a gift of grace freely given, it requires me only to come humbly and empty handed. So, whenever I feel hollowness begging to be satisfied, I remember, it is not the tree, nor the lights, nor the gifts, nor the food that fill me. Christ came to make me whole. He has all I need.