Though there are different themes reserved for the second candle of Advent, the one I like best is “preparation.” Christmas is full of preparation. The birth of that baby in Bethlehem prepares us for His death on the cross at Easter. That God would come to earth and put on flesh reveals God’s loving preparation for the salvation of men. Even the birth of John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ message. All of those themes are worthy of mentioning; yet I’ve been thinking that preparation can also be summed up in the words to “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King,
Let every heart, prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.
Christmas time 1980 I was in my first year at Boise State University—and an unbeliever. Yet, the Lord was preparing my heart for Him. My thoughts were selfish and a bit devious as I considered my future while driving home from work one night. Suddenly, it was as if my thoughts had been broadcast out loud so that I really heard them. They shocked me. They shocked me to the point that I muttered to myself, “You’re going to ruin your life if you continue the way you’re going. You need the Lord.” From that point on it seemed as natural a decision as drinking milk to search out the one Bible we had in the house and begin to read it. I knew the gospels talked about Jesus so I started there. And as I read them day after day, my heart prepared Him room.
Not knowing what to do, I prepared my heart for Jesus through the weeks of December and early January, hoping He would accept me as His own. I read the gospels over and over. I tried to quit swearing and keep my temper. I broke up with my boyfriend. Like the “Little Drummer Boy” I didn’t have much to offer, but I offered what I had and hoped He would understand that I couldn’t bear to live without Him anymore. And God, who always hears the cry of repentance, heard mine, and made my heart new in mid-January of 1981.
Yet that was only the beginning of preparing Him room. Every day offers us an opportunity to prepare our hearts for Him. And Christmastime brings that into even greater focus. The phrase “Let every heart, prepare Him room,” carries with it a picture of readying a room for a special guest, of focusing all your energy and attention upon that most-loved guest. Preparation plans, anticipates, and even sacrifices at times.
“Joy to the World” plays constantly at Christmas time and reminds us to prepare our hearts for Him. Yet how can we do this? For me it helps to think how I would literally prepare a room for someone’s arrival. We love having guests and we love planning for them. We like to think of ways to make their visit memorable. In the same way, we can plan for our Christmas season to be a special offering to the Lord. Engaging in Christmas traditions that refocus our hearts back on God’s precious gift of Jesus effectively prepares our hearts for the Lord. Planning to use Advent wreaths, reading the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke, reading through Christmas hymns, or acting out the nativity with the kids in your family help to prepare Him room.
Preparation anticipates the special guest’s arrival. What are you really thinking about Jesus and this Christmas season? Would you say it’s marked by anticipation or dread? Delight in Jesus and this special time of year is directly related to the time we spend with Him in quiet, before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Prepare Him room by spending time with Him each day.
Preparation sacrifices for the special guest. We’ve stayed in people’s homes where they gave us their bed and they slept in their kids’ bunkbeds and the kids slept on the floor. Having our hearts prepare Him room means doing special things to honor Jesus. Your special offering might be setting aside an evening for quiet worship, even when you have a pile of laundry waiting for you. We do things differently when we have special guests with us, so why shouldn’t we try doing things differently for the Christmas season and prepare Him room?
The picture of Jesus as a guest during this Christmas season only goes so far, as the analogy breaks down if you spin it out too far. In reality, He is not a guest if He is your love, your life; He resides with you. Yet, the picture of preparing Him room does help me think how I can enjoy this Christmas season with Him in new and fresh ways.
Let every heart, prepare Him room—for a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).