Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Introduction
On Christmas, we sing Joy to the World which contains the line: “let every heart prepare Him room.” Quite often, these are simply sentimental words. They are words we like and words we want to be true. However, preparation takes time and we can’t wish our way into preparing room for God in our lives.
In our world of “instant everything”, we can easily transfer the idea of “instant” into our lives with God. We desire to be able to “say the word” and experience relationship with Him. On the one hand, He is always present in our lives but often not in an experiential way. We might “know” that He is near but not experience that nearness in the daily moments of life. The invitation to “prepare Him room” is an invitation to experience Him at the heart level, at the level of our conscious awareness and not simply at the level of theological assent. This doesn’t happen in an instant … it requires preparation in the same way we might prepare to have a house guest.
For many of us, our hearts are like the homes on the television show Hoarders. Every square inch of our hearts are filled with things that we believe will make us happy: relationships, jobs, activities, possessions, even “religious” activities. None of these are “bad” things but they aren’t meant to satisfy our souls. And then, we frequently hold hurts, grudges, habits, or other desires in our hearts. Throw in the busyness of life and there just isn’t any room for a visitor.
On Hoarders, the cleaning project begins with a humble acknowledgement that there is a need for change. Over these next three a half weeks of Advent, we’ll walk through a process for making room in our hearts for Christ.
Our life with God is always an adventure in what Eugene Peterson calls the “middle voice”. In the English language, we understand “active voice” in which we do something and the “passive voice” in which something is done to us. Other languages have the “middle voice” in which one is active and passive at the same time. Peterson writes:
“Prayer and spirituality feature participation, the complex participation of God and the human, his will and our wills. We do not abandon ourselves to drown in the ocean of love, losing identity. We do not pull the strings that activate God’s operations in our lives, subjecting God to our assertive identity. We neither manipulate God (active voice) nor are we manipulated by God (passive voice). We are involved in the action and participate in its results but do not control or define it (middle voice). Prayer takes place in the middle voice.”
The middle voice means that we wait … actively, and that is what advent is all about. There is tension in the waiting but there is no other way. So, the idea is that we allow Him to prepare room in our hearts but we also participate. How will this work? As we allow Him to prepare the room, what is our role? Over these next weeks of the Advent Season, we’ll walk through the following:
Week 1: He humbles our hearts as we wait
Week 2: He softens our hearts as we listen
Week 3: He expands our hearts as we release
Week 4: He occupies our heart as we open
Let’s journey together in these days of Advent as we learn to wait, listen, release, open, and finally celebrate the one who comes to live in our hearts! Advent comes from a Latin word which means “coming” or “arrival” and the days of Advent challenge us to prepare and be in waiting mode. We may have come to know Jesus years ago, but Advent once again allows us to go deeper into the joy of a Savior who dwells with us and in us. He alone is the One for whom we were made. It was Augustine who prayed: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Let’s pray his prayer as we begin living into this Season of Advent …
Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. Amen.
Spend some time with that prayer and make it your own.
Tomorrow, we begin with learning to wait … that He might humble our hearts.