a few Christmas thoughts on being empty and being full


There’s a lot of space under the tree this year. But the Christmas tree?  It is full, brimming with ornaments that probably cover every square inch of the tree. Every ornament tells a story.  It signifies a moment in time, a milestone, a period of time.  Yes, every ornament tells a story, and with 6 children contributing to the decoration of the tree, there are lots and lots of stories.

As I decorated the tree this year, there were ‘stories’ I didn’t want to open.  There was the key ornament which we got over 21 years ago to commemorate the year that we bought /built our first home. We no longer own the home and the key ornament brought up a lot of emotions in me for sure. There was the hand-made wreath ornament of a little blonde haired four year old boy with bright blue eyes and a blue flannel shirt, beaming from ear to ear.  That ‘boy’ is all grown up now, and that smile, that beaming smile, is not often seen, as he is battling, (and winning, thank God!) a battle with an alcohol addiction.  There’s the canoe ornament which we had when we bought our beautiful lake property years ago.  We envisioned building our home there and have so many wonderful memories of stomping through the woods, building trails and rock walls, fishing, and swimming with the kids.  That land is a distant memory as well and has also slipped through our hands.  There has been a lot of loss in our lives this  year.  My hands have been emptied of many things I thought would always be.  But….

…But, there are many beautiful things, memories,  that so haven’t slipped through our hands… stories that are embedded in our hearts that no one can take away. There are experiences and moments in time that developed character and tenacity in my kids that I love to think on.   I see the ornament of one’s son’s internship at the local paper, the ornaments of a son who played football in college, the hand made ornaments that were made by little hands that have now become big hands.  Our children have grown and they are finding their way in life, some with more ease than others.  But that’s life, isn’t it?

As I decorated the tree, there were tears.  There were.  I admit it. There were sad tears and happy tears, and tears of clarity, of understanding.  Because what was so cool about it all was that in the midst of  decorating that tree was that I realized that the tree is the whole.  The ornaments are the parts.  The tree holds them all together.  ALL together.  The broken and the beautiful  all on one tree which signifies eternal life.  Green, green, green, eternal life.  The star signifies that gift of Christ which allows us all to have eternal life. And the ornaments?  They are but symbols of the beautiful and broken pieces of our lives…moments and milestones in our lives…all in the light of eternity.

In the light of eternity, things pale.  We gain perspective.  We gain HOPE.  Hope that allows the broken and the beautiful ornaments to all co-habitate to be significant parts of a beautiful “whole”.  Yes, tears fell as I acknowledged the broken.  But the joy that came as I realized the beautiful?  The beautiful Truth that what God allows, He can use.  The truth that Christ came for the broken…and sees the brokenness in our lives just as we do.  But oh, how He can transform the broken into the beautiful.  He knows all about it, for the Cross he came to bear, brought freedom for eternity for those of us who choose to call Him our Savior.  Our ‘broken and beautiful’ Savior*.

Yes, the space under the tree will not have as much “sTuFf”  to fill it up this year.  We’ve made a choice to keep it simple.   But the gifts, the true gifts that last? My tree is FULL of reminders of them. Full.  And unlike the sTuFf that will probably be forgotten by midyear, these gifts of moments, memories, truths, will last.May my hands be more empty and my heart be determined to encourage and love well in the moments we have together…In the broken and the beautiful, may we embrace the truth that God is with us…EMMANUEL.  WITH us.  Through it ALL.  And that, is the amazing and wonderful beauty of Christmas. GOD is with us.   God IS with us.  God is WITH us.  God is with US.  GOD IS WITH US.

So, a Merry, Merry Christmas to you and yours. May your trees and hearts be full of hope.  FULL of Hope that weaves the beautiful and broken together in the light of a Risen Savior who is called Emmanuel.  God is with us.



* A little addendum here.  When I say “broken and beautiful Savior”?  The word “broken” is in reference to what he endured for us.  As the words in Isaiah 53:5 say, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  He was ‘broken’ that we may be healed.  He bore our sins that we might be free from the tyrranical nature of sin. In no way did I intend the phrase “broken and beautiful Savior” to negate or minimize the perfection of Christ.  I was just referring to what He endured for us. Just clarifying!

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