Empty Cups


“Those who celebrate his birth know that this life is not the end of the story. Today, when we open this gift of grace, we are embraced by an eternal mystery. We open a gift of hope that breathes life into us, whispering that death is not the end…. Christ came so that we could fill the empty cup of sorrow with the wine of community and creativity.”

Makoto Fujimura

Christmas is the story of grace.

Grace has existed from the beginning of humankind and will continue to the end of history. Grace is epitomized by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He centers the story of grace.

Makoto Fujimura in his book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, writes of grace embracing us, breathing into us and inviting us to fill the empty cups. Grace is experiential and Jesus invites us into the experience. Jesus invites us into the story of grace by calling us to love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Only by loving God and others can we begin to experience grace. The grace to choose obedience over rebellion, forgiveness over pride and love over hate. The grace to love neighbors who are unlike us. It is here where grace embraces and permeates our lives.

Recently, together with Chui and our kids, we visited South Africa, a land of immense beauty shaded by a painful past. A highlight of the trip was the time spent with the abandoned children at Acres of Love, a place where rescued orphans thrive through love and quality care. On the same day, I posed a question to Joseph and Jada on whether they would welcome adoption in our family. Both were affirmative but it came with the condition that the adopted must be Chinese. They felt it would be easier relating to someone of the same ethnicity. But Jesus taught otherwise. He parabolized the loving of our neighbor, unveiling the least likely person to rescue a victim, as someone detested and despised by the audience of his illustration.

In the story of grace, Jesus invites us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are called to pray for the fulfillment of God’s will, heaven’s will. Revelation 21 speaks of the complete and climatic fulfillment of the will of heaven being done on earth. It is a prophetic visual of a new heaven and a new earth made possible by God making all things new where pain, suffering and injustice will cease. So, the prayer of Jesus invokes us to participate in making all things new.

Jesus became the surety for the perfect fulfillment of heaven’s will when he triumphed health over sickness, power over nature, faith over fear, love over law, and life over death. He inaugurated the making of all things new for all of creation and expects us to do likewise in the story of grace.

Jesus invites us to make all things new. He invites us to fill the empty cups of sorrow. In another parable, Jesus sermonized about offering help and hospitality to the marginalized – lives of sorrow. He opens a path to the realm of making all things new. We are to continue his inauguration of bringing healing, relief for the suffering and advocating justice.

How are we making all things new? What are we filling the empty cups of sorrow with? Who are the lives of sorrow in our cities?

For some they offer the wine of rebuilding and hope to lives wrecked by the typhoons and tsunamis of life. For some they pour out the wine of genuine friendship and belonging for the lonely. Others open wine channels of kindness and generosity in coming alongside those overlooked by society. And for some it is echoing Fujimura, believing “Christ came so that we could fill the empty cup of sorrow with the wine of community and creativity” by effecting lives with stories of renewal and emerging the transformation of communities through spaces of the arts.

This Christmas, we are reminded of the story of grace. We are reminded to fill the empty cups.

[ Empty Cups is featured in Y Space, a bi-yearly publication of Yellowren Productions. ]

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