Kenotic Waiting: Making Room

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This devotion comes to us from Jim Gritter. It is based on Luke 2:7 and Philippians 2:7. In particular, the Greek word for “self-emptying” — kenosis.

I have many fine memories of Christmas as a child. The Sunday school pageant was always something to look forward to. I was particularly impressed with the giant candy bar they gave us afterward.

Attending a Christian school meant a second round of pageant opportunities, and to this day I remember the satisfaction of landing the role of a singing wiseman.

So much excitement! So much joy! I absolutely loved the story of Christmas, except for one element.

It was the no room in the inn business that bothered me.

My youthful sensibilities were riled by that awful detail. How could it be that there was no room for Jesus? Unacceptable. It bothers me still.

As lovers of Jesus, we need to be room-makers.

We need to be room-makers because Jesus deserves better.
We need to be room-makers because Jesus consistently made room for those around him.
We need to be room-makers because we ourselves need room.

In the kenotic hymn of Philippians 2, we learn of Jesus’ willingness to empty himself for our benefit. Divine capacities—capacities that might intimidate or overwhelm, capacities that might in any manner hinder this move toward meaningful connection with humankind—were lovingly poured out. In this shocking way, Jesus made room for us. As lovers of Jesus, we are called to be room-makers.

There’s nothing easy about this. We are, after all, accumulators, not emptiers. The seers of our age have convinced us that more and bigger and better is the path to satisfaction. And, in ways that deserve genuine soul-searching, we have turned this sacred season into a frenzy of accelerated accumulation.

So how do we make room? We start by clearing away the clutter in our lives, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that clutter takes many forms. We learn, too, that grace makes space. It pushes back against internal and external pressures, giving us room to breathe.

As we open space, we may discover a heightened sense of longing and anticipation. The pulse of hope quickens for those who free themselves from peripheral distractions. We wait with a heightened sense of readiness.

Our aspiration is not to just any sort of emptiness—some forms can be terrifying—but rather to what Henri Nouwen called “friendly emptiness,” a receptive and welcoming emptiness. We free up space to create opportunities. With this genial space in our heart, space that anticipates the prospect of fellowship with singing and dancing, there is room for the stranger or the estranged to be received just as he is.

There is room for Jesus.

How will you make room? What will need to be emptied?

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