It’s the time of the year known for shopping (to the point of materialism), feasting (to the point of gluttony) and busyness (to the point of craziness)! It’s easy to miss the whole point of the Christmas season. What if we, as believers, chose a counter-cultural direction? What if instead of filling up on “all of the things” we instead slimmed down–or even emptied—our shopping carts, calendars or stomachs so we could be filled with the One Thing (the one Person) who matters most?
What is Filling You Up? Is it the “stuff” around you? Or the Lord? If it’s the stuff, we will end up feeling disappointed, disillusioned and ultimately dissatisfied. The temporary gifts from Him are never meant to meet our deepest needs; only He can do that. Yet day after day passes by—sometimes year after year–with zero encounter with Christ Himself. This year can be different! But it will take intentionality to make space and time to meet Him in the personal and meaningful way in which we all, at our deepest core, desperately long for. But in order to be filled, we sometimes need to first be emptied.
Emptied to Be Filled If you’ve never tried fasting, let me invite you to try it for the sake of encountering Jesus this year! In fact, let me suggest that there is no better time to try it than now! We tend to wait until we “have time” or “feel led” but there is no time like now to seek Him. When we fast (traditionally from food, though it could be from shopping, social media or anything that distracts us from the Lord) we are making a declaration what we hunger for, crave and need to be filled with—more than anything else—is Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life.
When we forgo food, we are making space for Him. We can devote the time we would have spent to preparing or eating food to Him. And when the hunger pains strike because our stomach is literally hungry, we are reminded in a salient way that the source of our life and strength is ultimately Him, and it can prompt us to lean into His presence in that moment. I will often pray: “Jesus, I am hungry for food right now, but I am even hungrier for You.” Then, if possible, I will practice simply sitting with Him for a few minutes, possibly reading His Word, worshiping Him with a song or simply enjoying Him in silence. He promises that in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and over and over again I have found that to be true!
Making Room When you think back to the first Christmas you realize there was no room for Jesus right from the start. Thankfully, an innkeeper did make a little space for Him; no one else was willing to welcome the new King! When we don’t carve out space and time for Jesus, we are essentially saying we don’t welcome Him or want Him either. We don’t want a King because we can manage our own life. I love the lyrics to the song by Jonathon McReynolds “Make Room.” He says: “I find space for what I treasure; I make time for what I want; I choose my priorities and Jesus you’re my number one.” He goes on to list the areas of life He’s given Jesus access to and permission to change: “My will, my way, my ego, my plans, my schedule, my itinerary, my habits, my attitude… if it takes your space… you can move that over.” Have we given Him that kind of unrestrained access to our lives? It may sound daunting, but in the end it’s this humble surrender that frees us. In a culture of hustle and a season of busy bustle, we can let go of our proving, our perfectionism, our performance. We come to Jesus empty-handed, no longer trying to give Him the gift of our best efforts, but instead with expectancy—waiting to receive the gift of His presence into our lives. When He gives Himself in exchange for our emptiness it is a divine and blessed exchange. He is always more than enough!