Last week, our church choir offered two presentations of Christmas music. As a member of the choir, I know all that went into the preparation—hours of listening to and singing along with practice tapes, memorization of difficult passages by studying the printed music, extended rehearsal times, “bonus” rehearsals, and tedious technical rehearsals for diction and note accuracy. Although those in the congregation enjoyed the music, they probably had no understanding of the countless hours of preparation behind what they heard.
Like the preparation for a musical presentation, preparing your heart for Christmas takes some effort. And if you aren’t intentional, heart preparation won’t happen. The Christmas season is chockfull of events and commitments that keep you in hustle and bustle mode from Thanksgiving to the New Year. Then, suddenly, Christmas is over and you’ve failed to prepare your heart and missed out on the blessings of an open and prepared heart.
Here are a few of the types of hearts we see at Christmas:
The Hard Heart – The hard heart is a stranger to compassion and has no time for others. It is bolted shut to giving and receiving. The hard heart is bound by unforgiveness, resentment, anger, and indifference. It is a closed heart, locked tight by past hurts and missed opportunities. Christmas has little meaing for the person with a hard heart.
The Grieving Heart – While I was writing this post, I got a message from a relative in another town telling me her mother is in critical condition in the hospital. Right here, in the midst of Christmas, a family is having to say goodbye to a loved one, and from now on, this family will associate Christmas with loss. The grieving heart is tender, reliving bittersweet memories while anticipating or adjusting to an empty chair at the table.
The Busy Heart – Busyness is something our culture promotes. We hardly know how to slow down, and when we do, we experience a mild sense of guilt for not “doing.” But a busy heart is attached to an exhausted body, and fatigue causes you to miss opportunities for family time, personal time, and spiritual refreshment. Busyness spins you in circles instead of moving you forward and keeps you from experiencing the joys and blessings of Christmas.
The Open Heart – When Mary and Joseph searched for a place to stay in a town that wasn’t their own, they encountered no vacancy signs. Finally, an innkeeper showed compassion and allowed them shelter in a smelly stable. It was hardly an acceptable place to spend the night let alone birth a baby, but they were thankful for the provision of a man with an open heart. That is what God wants from us—open, willing, receptive, obedient hearts. The open heart hears and responds. The open heart sees the needs of others. The open heart is a joyous, thankful, compassionate, giving heart.
When Isaac Watts penned the words of “Joy to the World” in 1719, he didn’t intend it to be a Christmas song. It is a song about the joy of salvation. The first verse includes the line “Let every heart prepare him room,” yet, like the inns that couldn’t accommodate Mary and Joseph, we often hang a no vacancy sign on our hearts, a too busy sign, at Christmas and all year long. This year, open your heart to miracle of Christmas and to the person of Christmas, Jesus Christ. Then decide to seek him in the coming year.
“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him.” (Ephesians 3:17 TLB)