“Let every heart prepare him room.”
Recently, while listening to this familiar Christmas lyric, I felt something inside me say, “Did you hear that? Every heart.”
“Even your overscheduled, frayed-around-the-edges, aching to please others, festive little extrovert heart, Amy. Does it have room for what matters most this time of year? Have you made that room?”
Nope. No, I have not.
Conviction by Christmas carol. Seriously, Holy Spirit, that’s a new one.
Or…is it? Because, as it turns out, I did a little searching and realized I faced this exact same lesson a few years ago, with a different Christmas carol. (What can I say; I’m a slow learner.) The rest of this post is reflections from my twenty-year-old self.
And the time I would have spent writing a new blog post? I’m using it to prepare him room.
Eight Christmas parties in one week.
On the first Sunday of December during my sophomore year, this sounded like a great idea and the most exciting schedule ever. I was involved in a half-dozen groups and organizations, all of which decided that they needed to distribute frosted cookies at various events to properly celebrate the season. It was going to be so much fun!
By Wednesday, I was a little sleep-deprived, but hey, Christmas only comes once a year, right?
By Friday, I was starting to get sick, dragging through my classes with annoying Christmas songs stuck in my head. I wrote in my journal, “To survive this weekend, I’m going to need lots of prayer, Nyquil, and Christmas fudge.” (Looking back: the fudge was a bad idea.)
By Sunday, I skipped my last party and almost fell into a candy-cane induced coma.
Instead, I stumbled through the snow to the prayer chapel. There, I mindlessly flipped through the hymnal, landing in the Christmas carol section so I wouldn’t feel like a total Scrooge.
I started to read the words to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and down in one of those obscure verses we never sing, I froze on this line: “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”
Have you heard them singing lately?
Me neither. Because sometimes we can be louder than the angels. We cram our schedules full of events, concerts, parties, open houses, movie marathons and jingle-bell tunes cranked up as high as they can go. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they’ve often kept me so busy that I forget what I’m supposed to be celebrating: Jesus’ birth.
But even when we forget, the songs—those carols we hear so often that we don’t really hear them anymore—still tell us what we’re missing.
You can hear it at everyone’s favorite pre-finals basketball game, where spectators clothed in pajamas and costumes (or not clothed in enough of either) sway and shout-sing, “Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright.”
You can hear it in the opening hymn of the Candle and Carols chapel, while resident pyromaniacs plan what they can do with the little flame in their hand, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”
You can hear it almost everywhere, from Chorale rehearsals, Spotify accounts, Holipalooza karaoke performances, and warbles from the shower stall next to you. Our songs tell us what we value most at Christmas. Joy and cheer? Sure, those are there. But so is peace. So is calm. So is the quietly unexpected wonder of finding a Savior in a manger.
At Taylor University, December can be a rush of fast-paced, holly jolly, festive craziness that is over in about the same time that it takes to tear wrapping paper off of presents. There are dozens of events to go to, plus all the papers and projects you had in your syllabus since the beginning of the year but forgot about. And maybe studying for finals. Maybe.
Please, I’m begging you: slow down. Go to the prayer chapel. Have coffee with a friend to ask “How are you?” and really mean it. Read John 1:1-14 (my favorite version of the Christmas story). Take a walk by yourself in the woods.
Rest beside the weary road. The stress, socializing, and sugar buzz can wait until later.