Without doubt one of the best things about Christmas time is getting to sing a lot in public.
To be honest, I love that all year round anyway (apologies for any negative experience you might have endured as a result of this!), but there’s just something about belting out carols that really steps things up a notch: from the endurance test of the glooooooooria’s in Ding! Dong! Merrily on High, to the killer high notes in O Holy Night or even just how my sister and I still find it funny to put on fake deep voices for any and every carol and pretend like we’re in some kind of male voice choir (Yes, we are both in our 30s).
One particularly highlight of any set-list though is Joy to the World. I love the round at the end of each verse and the absolute chaos that ensues when some people in the room are totally going for it in full spectrum, whilst others are just playing straight. It’s a lot of fun.
But vocal gymnastics aside, this carol has one of my all-time favourite lyrics:
“Let every heart, prepare him room.”
It could easily be lost in the midst of all the other phrases we’ll sing this month, but to me it just strikes to the heart of what advent is all about.
It’s a time of preparation, of looking forward.
A time of waiting. Of watching. Of hoping for the light.
Because the same Jesus who emerged from the darkness two thousand years ago is still alive and well, and stands faithfully knocking at the doors of our hearts, promising company to all who would invite him in.
Jesus is still alive and well, faithfully knocking at the doors of our hearts and promising company to all who would invite him in.
Where the world around us will buzz with activity over the next three weeks, what could it look like for the world within us to take a little pause? For us to make a little space, ready and waiting for Jesus to come and hang out with us?
I think that could be pretty powerful.
My encouragement, my challenge this advent, to myself as much as anyone: can we prepare some room for Jesus?
It doesn’t have to be flash or fancy, an open manger in a dirty stable will do. (Availability has always been the primary criterion). But can we carve a out a space where God can come and dwell, a space where he can be made more real to us once again?
The promise of the coming Messiah was that “of the increase of his government, and of peace, there shall be no end” – and what better time of year to not just remember and celebrate that, or even enjoying talking and singing about it, but to find a way to actually, practically ‘co-labour’ with that increase in our own lives as well.
Where the world around us will buzz with activity over the next three weeks, what could it look like for the world within us to take a little pause?
So, to that end, here are two things I’m going to try and do this advent. Maybe it might spark an idea that you could try:
1. Read through Old Testament prophecies.
If anyone knows anything about anticipation, it’s the Jews! There are hundred and hundreds of years worth of expectation for Jesus recorded in the Old Testament. I’m going to try and spend some time each day meditating on those promises and how they find their fulfilment in Jesus. I tried this last year and kept it up for two days. It was still great though, and I’m hoping to do a little better this time around!
2. Social media cut-back.
I know it’s a cliche move, but for all the enjoyment I get from social media it sure as heck doesn’t do anything to help keep me more peaceful and more available to encounter God. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go full-on “fast” yet, but I’m definitely going to do something that will significantly reduce the amount of time I give to social media. (Full disclosure: I still want to try and win my Fantasy NFL league, so I’m going to at the very least need Twitter on a Sunday night)
We’ll see how it goes!
In the end, the ‘what’ doesn’t matter so much. It’s about making space, whatever that happens to look like. I just want to make sure that I don’t think that just because I’ve been a Christian for a long time, that I’ve somehow ‘graduated’ from needing to become more aware of Jesus – especially at a time of year when we hope (expect?) the rest of society to do so.
Is there something different you could try to prepare some room in your heart for Jesus this advent?