Isaiah 9. 2-7 * Psalm 96 * Titus 2.11-14 * Luke 2.1-14 (15-20)
At heart, I am a traditionalist. Those who know me well will no doubt heartily agree. My preference is for Christmas carols to be sung in their “traditional way.” With this said, I have a fond affection for some of the carols performed in a non-traditional manner by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! Their version of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World,” and of course, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” (Carol of the Bells) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHioIlbnS_A) are among those I find musically stimulating and enjoyable. I know – somewhat of a dichotomy for a traditionalist!
Recently, while driving I was listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and I was going through the words in my mind while “Joy to the World” was playing. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v4lcVeGC30) A phrase struck me – “Let every heart prepare him room.” The cast of characters in the Luke birth narrative – Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds – each prepared room in their heart for Jesus. Mary opened her heart when the angel visited her and she said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1.38). In Mary’s culture, for her to open her heart and to make room in her heart to be the mother of the Savior of the world carried potential shame. What would her parents think, Joseph, her friends and relatives? She prepared room in her heart not knowing the full consequences of her action.
I think, at one level, Joseph’s heart was closed. He did not want to have anything to do with Mary. Yes, he desired to “put her away quietly,” but even that phrase hints at a closed heart. We know that Joseph had his encounter with the angel, and in the process, he prepared room in his heart for a child. Like Mary, there was a cost, there was uncertainty. What would his friends and family think? How would they react to the news of Joseph’s change of heart? What would be the consequences for Joseph in preparing room in his heart for this child?
The hearts of the shepherds were changed. The simple fact that they left their flocks to obey what the angel of the Lord had said indicates they made room in their hearts as well. Obedience requires a change of heart – making room. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds all obeyed; they all made room for the Christ child in their hearts.
There is another heart that made room in this story though – the heart of God. God’s heart is so full of love for His creation that God gave of Himself. The heart of God made room for you and me. The heart of God said “I love you” that first Christmas Eve. This is the story of Christmas. Through the words of the angel to the shepherds, we learn that God made room in his heart for us: “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people.” For all people – God has made room for all people. The heart of God asks, “I made room for you. Will you make room for me?”
As believers, we must continually make room for the Christ child in our hearts. Each time we obey, through the Holy Spirit, we make room for the Christ child. Our obedience will no doubt cost something, all obedience does. Yet, there is return on our cost! Our return is greater knowledge, truth, understanding, contentment, hope, peace, joy, love (the four great themes of Advent), and the list goes on. Our return is abundant life and eternal life!
Is it no wonder the hymn writer echoes the heart of God with his words, “Let every heart prepare him room.” As Advent comes to a close, the Christ candle will be lit; and it is time for each of us in a greater way to “prepare him room” in our hearts.
A prayer: “Thank-you so much, Almighty God, for sending Yourself, Your Son and our Savior into the world that first Christmas. Thank-you for the example of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds that made room in their hearts for the Christ child. Thank-you that You, my Triune God, opened your heart to me. Help me, Spirit of God, to continually follow the admonishment of the hymn writer to continually ‘prepare him room’ in my heart that I might experience Your abundant and eternal life. Amen.”
For those traditionalists – here is a link to the George Fox University Choir singing “Joy to the World.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oOwa0CWVVQ)