The other day, I spent time walking around our local mall. I had some time on my hands, and wanted to spend some time walking. As I am a person that does not like the fluffy white flakes of winter, the mall becomes an easy location to stretch my legs. On this particular day, the parking lot seemed irregularly full for a late November weekday afternoon. People were busy moving from shop to shop, some were lined up behind make-shift security guards, storefront displays advertised deals for a Black Friday that we in Canada do not even celebrate. And then there was Santa.
I turned a corner only to find myself behind Santa and his elf, coming out to meet the multitude of children anxiously waiting for their photo op. “Ho, ho,ho!” he cried, “merry Christmas!” I wanted to shout out, “Ho, ho, ho. Merry November!”
Can be honest? If there was a pillow to scream into, I would have done it. As a Christian person, I started getting really annoyed at what I was seeing. I walked past the scene, my mind going in a thousand different directions. My Anglican roots, the ones that run much deeper than I sometimes care to admit, grew increasingly frustrated as I thought of Santa declaring the onset of Christmas while it was still technically the season of Pentecost! I began to feel an inner hurt by the the celebration—a celebration that was so deeply flawed, transitory, and ultimately hollow. What does it say about our lives that we feel the need to jump into commercial craziness a full month and half prior the event we anticipate? What are we trying to replace? What are we trying to find? What are we trying to feel?
I almost felt as if I needed to run from the mall screaming, but then it happened: I found myself walking past a store called Twisted Goods—given what I was feeling, it was a store with a very apt moniker. It was then that I began to recognize the music playing in background. I had walked several laps around the mall at this point, and had never clued in to what the mall was playing. But at this point I began to recognize the tune. It was a Christmas Carol. This would probably have added to my internal frustration had I not, in a moment of clarity, recognized the words being sung:
Let every heart prepare him room.
Picture the scene: there I stood, upset about the premature celebration of Christmas. There I stood, in front a store whose name spoke a deep truth about the value of what we often wrap in glittery paper. There I stood, as people lived a hurriedness there was no need for. There I stood, hearing a call so often lost behind the noise of cash-registers, shopping bags and hurried feet. Let every heart prepare him room. And in my heart of hearts, I heard what I can describe only as the voice of God respond: “Is anyone listening?”
As we go from shop to shop, filling our bags with items destined to be replaced next year by whatever is newer, flashier, or more popular; as we wade through the trap of blow-out sales and holiday deals—bargains for twisted goods incapable of producing love, or peace, or wholeness; as we pass the lingerie shops telling us that sex fixes everything, and the electronics shops telling us happiness is found in the latest gadget, is anyone listening to that divine charge for us to prepare our hearts to receive our Lord?
This world pressures us with the need to buy the best gifts, even though many have lost jobs and all sense of financial security. This world tells that all our deep hurts and struggles can be solved through credit card smiles and retail band aids. And even though people are genuinely afraid of what the future will bring, we are told to cram our lives with more and more stuff.
The world’s voice can be oh so loud, yet even in the midst of it, God calls out to us. His voice can be heard. God invites us to prepare a place for Him in the deep centre of our lives—in the very place where we feel the hurry, the stress, the pressure or the fear. We prepare him room by emptying ourselves of that which is false and twisted, and by keeping our souls directed to that hope, peace, joy, and love fully realized only as Christ is born in our lives.
What would it mean for us to listen to his voice and prepare him room? Could we arrange ourselves to shop on only one weekend instead of four? Could we decide to go to only one holiday party instead of several? Could we decide to journey through Advent slowly, not rushing into Christmas, but stopping, praying, and waiting? God’s voice is always calling out to us, yet so often, it gets pushed off into the background. Let us clear room in our spiritual lives for us to listen. Let us prepare him room.