Words of “Joy to the World” fill the airwaves…
Let every heart prepare him room.
We’re in the Advent season now, and many of us are preparing our homes with Christmas foods, decorations and lights. Even the funeral home has a poinsettia in the lobby and wreaths on the doors.
The Christmas season is all about preparing–trees are put up, cookies are baked, stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It can be overwhelming sometimes with all the gifts to be wrapped and parties to attend. Christmas preparations, however, do not come as a surprise to us because the holiday comes around every year. Some of us may even enter December with a faint sense of dread, but traditions are carried on, carols are sung and we get together with family and friends to celebrate the season. It’s interesting to me that one of the most quoted passages of Scripture at funeral services is also about preparing. You don’t usually think of death as something you can be prepared for, and truthfully, none of us know how long we will be on this earth. Death can come suddenly, even tragically, or it can come slowly, over the years. It is never, however, something for which we can be completely prepared. Some amount of planning may help ease the burden of the many details that need to be attended to when death occurs, but worrying about it will not put off the inevitable nor lessen the grief for those left behind. If there are few conversations and preparations made before a death, decisions for family members can be more overwhelming in their state of grief. Even the most well-prepared plans, however, will not fully lift the feeling of loss.
In the gospel of John, chapter 14, Jesus speaks to the disciples to comfort them in preparation for his death and he says,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7 NIV
Advent is all about preparing. It is equally, however, about waiting and abiding in the promise of our Savior. The reminder in John 14 is that a place is being prepared for us and it is one of thoughtful design and eternal hope. It may not be filled with gumdrops and candy canes, but it has many rooms, and the invitation is open at all times. This season may find you reflecting on the loss of a loved one or making preparations for when your time comes. Sickness and earthly pain may leave you feeling less than jolly. Our great privilege in this season, however, is to rejoice in the knowledge of the Emmanuel, God incarnate–with us on earth here to dwell– who is preparing a place just for us. How are you preparing your heart to tune into the truth of the real meaning of Christmas this year?