Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Opening, Dec 21
He occupies our hearts as we open (Advent week 4 day 1).
To receive the true gifts of Christmas, we release our hold on the gifts of this world. As we do that, we say “yes” to Christ. We welcome Him into our lives. Our hearts prepare Him room as we wait, listen, release, and now open ourselves to Him.
The Apostle John spoke of an initial receiving or opening to Christ in his Gospel: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)
As we receive Him, we become children of God … a relationship in which we are secure. However, space in our hearts and lives is cultivated only as we continue to open ourselves to Him. The Apostle John writes the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
This verse beautifully speaks of “preparing Him room.” As we listen and open, we have the opportunity to experience life with Him. The tragedy is that we often don’t hear that knock, but He is gracious and patient so He keeps knocking. Our lack of hearing comes because we “say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” (Rev. 3:16) Jesus goes on to say we don’t realize we “are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
It is our need and living in that need that opens the door of our hearts to Him. For many of us, there are perhaps those desperate times in life when we come to God out of “need” as a sort of last resort. However, we usually don’t experience Him because room hasn’t been prepared in our hearts. At those times, we want His gifts but on our own terms. The sense of need isn’t really for Him but for our lack of those “other things.” Experiencing the gift of “God with us” means that we open ourselves to Him because we are empty … we are waiting and listening and releasing … ready for Him. Frederick Buechner describes the battle for our hearts:
“Power, success, and happiness, as the world knows them, are his who will fight for them hard enough; but peace, love, joy, are only from God. And God is the enemy whom Jacob fought there by the river, of course, and whom in one way or another we all of us fight – God, the beloved enemy. Our enemy, because, before giving us everything, he demands of us everything; before giving us life, he demands our lives – our selves, our wills, our treasure.”
The verses in Revelation 3 go on to describe that God offers true riches, true worth, and true vision in the context of relationship with Him. Our great longings in life tend to be centered around lesser versions of those three things and consequently our sense of need is for material riches and earthly significance and worldly wisdom. To open ourselves to the true gifts of Christmas requires that we live with a sense of emptiness and longing for Christ Himself.
We can fool ourselves into thinking that we are releasing and letting go but still not be opening ourselves to Him. Oswald Chambers suggests:
“If a person cannot go to God, it is because he has something secret which he does not intend to give up— he may admit his sin, but would no more give up that thing than he could fly under his own power.”
Are there places in your life where you readily admit your sin but are still believing that this sin can satisfy you? Release your belief in satisfaction in anything other than Christ and feel the emptiness. Only when we feel the emptiness of life apart from satisfaction in Him do our hearts have the space for Him to occupy. C. S. Lewis famously challenged:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Today, set aside some time to practice the spiritual discipline of emptiness. Sit quietly and rest in Him. As your thoughts wander, bring them back to that place of rest by praying Revelation 3:17: I am “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” without Christ. As you feel the “desire” of your thought system go to other things, don’t try to control your thoughts but simply come back to that simple prayer. Take at least 5-10 minutes for this exercise.
Note: throughout the day, you can practice the discipline of emptiness when you feel various impulses or preoccupations by opening yourself to Him as you pray Revelation 3:17 and/or pray this prayer:
Father, I open myself to you. Letting go of all else, I come to you with empty, open hands. I entrust myself to You, believing that true riches, true worth, and true vision come only from You. Yes, Lord, have Your way in me. Thank You for Jesus who redeems me from the pit of self and into the joy of You. Amen.
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