Thursday, December 20, 2007

Busy but Empty

I heard this short summary of frenetic holiday events, and thought that it could well describe much of our daily trumpet practicing: "busy but empty!" Just as an abundance of activities doesn't define Christmas, so too a frantic flurry of practicing doesn't produce great performances. We'd certainly hate to hear the assessment of our music-making that I heard years ago. "You are spraying the air with thousands of notes of highly questionable value, somewhat impressive, but not really usable. Nobody would buy them." I went home a bit deflated, but challenged at the same time.

The glitzy trimmings of Christmas celebrations can appeal outwardly, but only serve to hide the emptiness that often haunts us and even overwhelms us as soon as the last bowl game becomes history. How strange that the Lord Jesus Christ, the very center of the holiday, is often the most neglected Person in season and out. Maybe it's a stretch to link holiday festivities to poor practice habits, but musicians have been known to think in stranger ways, if at all.

Christmas is about God's intervening to claim those who were dead in trespasses and sins, completely unable to revive themselves. "For He hath made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (II Cor. 5:21) What an exchange! He has filled our emptiness with Himself. It is and always has been His work and not our own. This redemptive work of God has probably prompted our over-attention to all the externals in celebrating what He accomplished in the hearts of men.

The thought is pretty simple. Our misplaced attention on the outward has distracted us from seeing His Son, and the extent of His internal work, which lasts way beyond the lights, sales, and bowl games. My trumpet lesson back in the day was about learning to have a perspective on quality, depth, and a message to an audience. So while we can be quite busy, we are never empty, for "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (II Cor. 4:7)

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