Empty Boxes

Susan Narjala   |   December 10, 2016 


Growing up in the 90’s in India, I have many fond memories of Christmas. It was about carol singing into the wee hours of the morning. It was about platefuls of steaming biriyani and brightly coloured paper stars that hung outside homes. It was about homemade plum cake heavy with fruit soaked in alcohol that probably exceeded prescribed church-friendly levels. It was about the harmonising voices and the soft flickering of candles during ‘Silent Night’ at the watch-night service.

Hardly any of my Christmas memories revolve around gifts. As I recall, my sister and I usually ended up with a grand total of one gift each at Christmas. Surprisingly enough, not even for a moment did we consider that a human rights violation! We had enough other stuff to think of – like decorating our tiny “Christmas tree” – a two-foot high shiny green tinsel avatar of the original that we decorated with cotton wool “snow”.

As part of our Christmas decorating, I remember covering empty cardboard boxes with gift wrapping paper to place under the tree. Empty cardboard boxes. From watching Hollywood movies, I knew presents under the tree were the norm. But in my mind I was sure those were merely props. All of them couldn’t possibly be real presents. So, along with candy canes and stockings made out of coloured paper, we created our very own empty gift box “props.” No, we weren’t poor or miserly. Having a bunch of gifts under the tree just didn’t map on our radar.

While I doubt we were trying to make a spiritual statement with our crafts, maybe we were onto something. Maybe, just maybe, those empty boxes are significant even today.

So often, our lives are too full of stuff, too choked with activity, too “satisfied” with the temporary, too preoccupied with gifts, that we forget the Giver. (Ironically enough, it’s more so at Christmas – the very time when we should welcome Jesus into our lives is when we have no room for Him.)

But it’s only when we offer up our empty boxes that He has a chance to fill them. He is ready to give us an identity as His child, a significance that comes because we are known and loved by Him, a purpose that we are created for His glory and for the good works that He has prepared. But first we have to give Him the chance.

As a parent, I’ve seen my children’s eyes light up with the thrill of Christmas gifts. (Yeah, I admit I’ve let the commercialism of Christmas suck me into the avalanche of presents under the tree). But after the wrapping paper wreckage has been cleared, and the gloss of new gifts has faded, there’s always more that they want (at least in about a month or so). What a picture of us grownups! Let’s recognise that we can never be deeply and fully satisfied apart from Christ.

We are just the vessels, the empty gift boxes. But for the box to have any value, it needs Christ on the inside. He’ll give you His Spirit. He'll fill you with His joy. He’ll give you His all.

Sure, gifts are great and the joy of giving greater, but let’s not cling to our gifts so much that we forget the Giver.



Photo Credit: Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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