“Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room” – Advent Week One

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.


It is a world rich with meaning. It can be qualified as joyous or anxious. It can be associated with that which is unknown or that which is familiar. It can be a gift, or it can be a burden. Regardless, it looks forward, not behind.

In addition to my marriage, the events for which I had the most anticipation were the birth of our children. From the moment of discovering we were pregnant, my entire life shifted, both internally and externally.

Among the myriad of questions and feelings, we began to make adjustments. We adjusted our lifestyle, made space for a nursery, collected baby items, read books, made new plans, had different conversations. We prepared room, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for the new little lives that were inevitably coming our way.

Then, of course, our children arrived. The event occurred, the anticipation was over, a new way of living began. And there was no going back. And I’m totally ok with that. Sure, parenting has its trials and struggles, but also immense joy and love. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So it is, I believe, with my relationship with Christ. At one point, I had to make adjustments to welcome him into my life. I had to reprioritize, make sacrifices, submit to his plans. I needed to prepare him room.

No Room

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:7

Sometimes, in my familiarity of the Christmas story, I lose sight of its significance. It is a strange story, if you think of it, from the angel visitation to the arrival of wise strangers.

Of course, as the story goes, there was no room for Joseph and Mary. We see the images of Joseph and Mary stumbling into town late at night, being refused by various innkeepers, and Mary finally giving birth to Jesus in an isolated stable behind some inn.

That classic image, though, actually isn’t biblical; scholars believe that Joseph and Mary were staying with one of Joseph’s family members, but were not able to secure a room of their own due to the fact that the other guest room(s) was occupied by other family members. They could have been there days, even weeks, before Jesus was actually born, removing some of the urgency we associate with the story. And while Jesus was laid in a manger, it was likely in the lower compartment of a peasant family’s home where animals would have been kept at night.

That’s a different image of the Nativity story, isn’t it?

Here’s what is biblical: Jesus was laid in the manger because there was no guest room for him. Isn’t that amazing? The Messiah didn’t require some well-prepared, immaculate, clean space; he entered the world and was laid down in a bin of animal feed. He, being born to poor parents, was nothing to be celebrated, no guest of honor.

He Came to His Own

Here’s the thing I find beautiful and poetic about that view of the story; Jesus was born among family. Yet, as is consistent with the Scriptures, “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him,” (John 1:11). Did his earthly family recognize who he was? Likely not.

But who did? The shepherds. The strangers. Those poor folk out in the fields, those who shared God’s heart for care-taking. They were given the knowledge of the tiny baby’s true identity, and they were the first to hear and spread the word of Jesus’ true mission.

Who else? The wise men, however many there were. The foreigners. Those of high regard and esteem, with wealth and wisdom. They, too, were part of God’s plan for declaring and protecting the news of the King’s arrival.

God is not exclusive. He invites all to come and know him through his Son, regardless of status, background, situation, occupation, or previous beliefs. And, “…to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

The story of Christ’s birth truly sets the stage for the entire gospel.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

When I think about the sacred carol, Joy to the World, I am struck by the exhortation: “Let every heart prepare Him room.” There is no limitation to the type of heart that is allowed to prepare space for Jesus.

Yet, preparation is required. Much like we prepared our lives for the birth of a child, we need to prepare our hearts for this holy Child.

When preparing for a guest, you can get away with shoveling piles of messes into closets and under beds. You can put on a happy face for the allotted amount of time, and serve to your heart’s content. You can give up sleeping in your own bed for a time, know that having a guest in your home is temporary, that you may, at some point, return to your usual routines.

But to prepare for a child means to prepare for your entire life to change. It means you have to prepare not only your physical space, but your mental space as well. You realize that welcoming a child into your life is going to be filled with joy, but also heartache. You begin to adjust for not just an extended weekend of sacrifice, but a lifetime of it. There is no returning to normal, but rather the making of a new normal.

When it comes to welcoming Jesus into our lives, I am certain it will look more like the latter than the first.

Personal Application

As we anticipate Christmas day, let’s take time to reflect on our own hearts. Have we already welcomed Christ? Have we treated him as the honored guest he is, or have we limited his residence to the basement of our souls where less is required of us? Have we allowed his presence to transform our lives, or have we sought to maintain our old way of life? Have we valued him, revered him, cherished him, or have we kept our distance from him? Have we embraced the reality that life under the Lordship of Christ is one of sacrifice and struggle, but one that is worth living because we can’t fathom our life without him?

If not, what is holding you back? Remember: our Savior was laid down in a manger. He will reside in any space, no matter how lowly. He has, in his grace, made all of our hearts acceptable homes, even if we see them as dirty, shameful, insignificant, or insufficient. Invite him in. He will not refuse you.

Now is the time to prepare him room.

Family Time Application

Every heart can prepare him room, including your children or grandchildren. Little ones have such a unique perspective; hearing their thoughts can enhance our own. Here are some ways to engage this concept with the little ones or teens in your life as you celebrate the first week of Advent:

  • Read or summarize the passage from Luke 2:1-20. For younger kids, ask questions such as, What would it feel like to have no place to sleep? Do you think Jesus liked being laid in a manger? Imagine you were the shepherds: what would you do if you heard this news? What would you do if you had been there that night? For older kids, ask them if there’s anything in the story they haven’t thought of before, ask them what they would have done if they were Mary or Joseph.
  • Share with your children the story of your own salvation, or talk about what it means to make room in your life for Jesus. Talk about your relationship with Jesus openly, addressing both struggles and joys.
  • Discuss ways your family can make room in your hearts for Jesus. Write them down and lay them down by the figurine of baby Jesus in your nativity.
  • For younger kids: Listen to “Jesus is Born” by Rain for Roots. For older kids: Listen to and read the lyrics for “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K.
  • Sing Joy to the World together.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Isaac Watts

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Read about why and how to celebrate advent here.

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