Mind the Gap. [between Thanksgiving and Christmas]
"Joy to the World
" is one of my favorite Christmas carols. As I write I am thinking about the wording, "Joy
to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing ...
While Heaven and nature will sing about the birth of the Lord, I am convinced there is some heart preparation we ought do in anticipation of the celebration of our King. Otherwise, Christmas day will arrive and we might feel we just somehow missed it.
After all, just a few days ago, our thoughts were filled with giving thanks; whether or not we spoke them aloud, we endeavored to count our blessings. And then, all the Black Friday sales reminded us 'the season' is here! Our pace quickened-why, there is so much to be done! There is the Tree to put up, the presents to buy, work to close out the year, cards to be written and sent... who has time to make room for Jesus? To which I say, we do ... we must, especially if we want to experience lasting joy.
When I think about making room in my heart, and turn my thoughts toward my soul, my flower garden is quite metaphorical. Everything that grows into something beautiful comes from a healthy root. Now in this season, I love putting Narcissus bulbs in glass containers and watching their little fingers go down over the rocks even as their stocks shoot up; after a few weeks little white flowers open and emit a sweet fragrance. However, if the roots rot, the tips turn dark and the flowers do not materialize.
That is not unlike our souls. The writer of Hebrews issues a warning about this phenomenon: "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."1 Friends, there are so many of us that have grabbed onto hurts and nursed them, allowing them to take root inside of us.
When your heart is crowded from the bitter root that is sending out its shoots, Jesus will have little room-at Christmas time or any time.
How do you know if you have a root of bitterness? Well, are you easily offended, harsh, critical or judgmental of others? Perhaps you cover it with sarcasm or prickly witticisms. Maybe your root of bitterness is un-forgiveness. You were hurt, someone did you wrong and you would feel weak or foolish if you forgave that person who did that to you! A little root starts to grow. Sometimes you nip it in the bud, but you never really empty that tank inside your soul of wrongs done to you-whether they were intended or not.
Maybe your root of bitterness is carrying around offenses, always remembering, just not letting go. As a result, you are guarded, or sullen or easily angered.
Your bitterness leads to wrath, (on the inside), or anger which comes pouring out in unexpected ways. Paul captured all of this, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice."2
Why? Bitterness -> wrath -> anger -> hateful thoughts and words; not only that, bitterness is the root of many of our modern-day 'dis-eases'. What we harbor inside makes us sick. Not much room for Jesus, not much room for joy.
Time to let God search out any root of bitterness, cleanse us, forgive us as we forgive others and start really living. Look up Psalm 139.23,24 - excellent verses to memorize and pray.
May the river of the Holy Spirit wash us, cleanse us, empty us and renew us so that we have room for Jesus, so that we can experience joy
and also spread joy!
1 - Hebrews 12.15; 2 - Philippians 4.31