Do you ever have one of those "AHA!" moments?  Ones where something just suddenly clicks?  For example, I was once walking through the cereal aisle in the supermarket when I was about 24.  A grown adult with a history degree.  I saw a box of Uncle Sam cereal (yes, Brits, we have patriotic cereal).  

Suddenly, the moment happened, and I realized that for the whole of my life, I had gotten it all wrong.  Uncle Sam was the US.  The United States.  The US Government.  Despite taking numerous American history courses (and knowing who the original Uncle Sam drawings were based on), it had never clicked what it actually meant.  I felt totally stupid for not noticing before.

So, back to my moment in the present day.  I was at our carol service singing "Joy to the World" for probably the 10,000th time. I love Christmas carols and listen to them pretty much non-stop every year, so we are talking LOTS of carols.  This year is the first time that I haven't sung in a choir at Christmas, so we are talking so many verses of Joy to the World.  I could probably sing the tenor and bass parts of it if pressed.

And somehow the meaning of it just blasted me, singing it this time.  

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.

Let every heart prepare him room.  Those words, previously just black and white on the page to me, suddenly felt new and crisp and clean.

The first night we got out our Christmas decorations and books, I told Ella about the precious baby, and how he didn't have a bed or a crib to sleep in, so he slept in the manger.  Very unusually, she woke in the night.  I went in and she was crying "No bed!  Jesus no have a bed!"  I calmed her by saying that he had a manger to sleep in, and he probably just cuddled his mama anyway.  What a strange moment to remember and dream about from the story, and yet it stuck with me.

I'm sure everyone reading this has seen at least one nativity play with the doors.  Child-Mary and Child-Joseph and a Child-donkey picking his nose go up to the door, where an innkeeper stands and says "No ROOM!"

Then, they go to the next door.  "NO ROOM HERE EITHER!"

Finally, they of course find that the third guy miraculously says "Sorry, I don't have room for you in the inn, but there's a stable out back.  Would that do?"

All of these thoughts and images came flooding into my mind as we sang "Let every heart prepare him room."  

We prepare SO MUCH during Christmas.  There is near-constant preparation of food, gifts, costumes, clothing, craft and activities.  And for what?  The day is gone and it's New Year in literally a few days.  By 12 days after Christmas, we're packing it all in and most people are already dieting off the food they've eaten.

So I decided that this year, I'm preparing my heart.  I've cut out most of the activities, and instead of gifts, I've written letters.  I just decided to be real and cut out the sweets and trinkets and just say to people how much they mean to my life.  I thought it might be taken as rude or weird, but each one has seemed touched so far.  I have decided that the one thing that I want to do is make a gingerbread house, so I'm doing that too.  And I'm just watching movies with Ella and telling her how much I love her and telling her how much God loves her too.  We're ringing a lot of jingle bells and looking at videos of Christmas lights on Youtube and finding pictures of what we think Baby Jesus looked like.  Yes, that's a thing, and Ella thinks it is this baby (we both agree that he would've enjoyed some lambs to entertain him):

It's not a perfect strategy, but on December 27th, I don't want to feel that post-Christmas anxiety letdown.  I want to feel like I've made room in my heart and my head for peace and love and something bigger than what I've had before.  I don't want to keep squeezing him out and saying "No room! Maybe try later?"

I've been teaching Ella to sing one of my favourite childhood Christmas songs - Come On, Ring Those Bells!  It is an awesome cheesy 1980's Christian song, and Ella loves it just as much as I do.  There's another song on that album (by Evie, if you want a laugh or are a glutton for punishment) called "No Room."  It's very corny, but the lyrics are good:

No room, only a manger of hay:
No room, He is a stranger today.
No room, here in His world turned away,
No room, no room.

Angels in Heaven up yonder
Watch with amazement and wonder
To see the Son of the Highest treated so.

No room here in the hearts of mankind,
No room, no cheery welcome could find,
No room, surely the world is blind,
No room, no room.

I wonder if you'll make room for the good stuff in your heart?  Room for peace and joy.  Room for loving and caring for others.  Maybe then that "Christmas spirit" could be in your heart a bit longer than January 6.

Merry Christmas, all!


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