Last weekend we did what a lot of people with little ones do before birthdays and Christmas: we forced our children to clean out the playroom. It was every bit as fun as you think it was, if you're thinking that it wasn't fun at all.
As we chunked one happy meal toy and party favor after another I kept reminding the girls that if they wanted to have room for anything new and special (like Christmas presents), they had to get rid of the junk that was literally spilling out of the room.
The girls didn't enjoy the process at all, but at the end of the day, they were both glad that we did it, and the whole experience reminded me of something that I know but have been too busy to acknowledge lately: It's good and necessary to clear things out every now and then to make room for what really matters.
Not just because piles of junk make me twitchy and I lean a little toward the minimalist side, but because it's dangerously easy to fill up our hearts and lives with the unimportant and inconsequential and leave us with absolutely no room for the eternal.
I thought about this as we continued to ready the house for Christmas over the past week. Before we could hang our stockings on the mantel and set the tree in its rightful place, we first had to make room.
Down came the books and clock and cute little bird that normally sit above the fireplace. Away went the Give Thanks banner and velvet pumpkins and fall decor. We pushed aside the chair, moved over the end table, and cleared out a corner of the den for the tree.
Only then were we ready.
It was work, and to be quite honest, it wasn't really work that I wanted to do. But it was necessary. And I started wondering. What if I spent as much time preparing my heart for Christmas as I do my home?
It's much easier to neglect the hard work of preparing a heart because you can't always tell, from the outside looking in, how out of sorts things really are. You don't know what I've got shoved in my closets, and I don't know what's hiding in yours. I like it that way, thankyouverymuch.
The truth is that I often put things like getting my home ready for Christmas first. Because that's what people see, and it's a lot less work, quite frankly, to clean out the playroom than it is to take a good, long look at the things I've let take up space in my heart.
And I thought of the prophet Isaiah, speaking centuries before Jesus was born, but urging Israel nonetheless to get ready for the coming king.
'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.'"
Make way in the wilderness, in the wasteland, and in the forgotten places for the Lord. Clear out the rubble in rocky areas and rough patches, and make room for him to reign. Straighten out the crooked places and repair the broken spots that trip you up.
Because at Christmas, we're reminded anew that the glory of the Lord has been revealed to us. He chose to show it to us when he tucked in tight and wrapped himself in the flesh of a tiny, helpless, human baby.
But sometimes, in the chaos and business and hustle and bustle, we forget.
Don't just deck your halls. Prepare room in your heart for Jesus.
Shove everything else out of the way. None of it matters compared to the all-surpassing worth of seeing and knowing him. It changes everything...even a heart.
Prepare the way.
The king is coming.
Are you ready?
Until next time, grace and peace.