"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
Where'er he comes, his blessings flow,
And hope and joy abound...."
It was a pretty benign moment. Some time ago, a friend and I were sitting on the bleachers watching our daughters during a sporting event, when someone came up to us and made it clear that although my friend was someone they looked forward to seeing, and speaking with...I was not.
I understood. It was sad, but I didn't think she was wrong, or that her feelings were unwarranted. She had the right to her own perceptions and conclusions. I'd learned to shut-down all hope of warm affection in those moments. The wounds were no longer as raw, the scars no longer tender. In fact, I was sure that I'd actually lost most of the sensation in that area of my heart. But I could see that the dear friend, who'd been sitting next to me, wasn't insensitive to the wounding. She was "feeling it" for me. It actually pained her, to witness dismissiveness among her friends.
Outside of the gym there were flowers blooming, trees were lush with rich green leaves, and people were playing tennis in shorts and tank tops. But in that moment of seeing the hurt on my friends face, all I could think of was the Christmas carol "Joy to the World."
It was as if snow had begun to drift softly over the earth and everything became suddenly very hushed and quiet in that noisy gym.
In my heart there was a babe in the manger, kings with gifts, shepherds singing, and the hope of peace. Angels were singing, and this carol became a "call to action." I could no longer afford the luxury of letting any relationship become disfunctionally polite, and steeped in passivity and reproach.
Just because I'd become inured to the sharpness of the hurt, didn't mean that the deeper roots of thorny words, looks, and feelings weren't infesting the larger community garden we all grew in. Sin and sorrow needed to be rooted out and blessings needed to flow...like the healing waters of Meribah...through the rich soil of our shared landscape.
The carol sings:
"Where'er He comes,
His blessings flow...
And hope and joy abound..."
My family, my children, their friends, my friends, our neighbors...deserved better from me that just passive tolerance. They deserved a wife, mom, sister, friend, neighbor who made room in her heart...EVERY MOMENT...for the birth of the Christ child, in the face of everyone I encountered. No human history, no mistakes, no mentally-recorded moments where "he said, then she said." Only this moment of "receiving Him still" (still: nevertheless, as in I am still here, I am still good, I am still your friend). Only this moment of reception...receiving the gift of the Christ child - the babe of healing...in the waiting room of my heart. A room that I must...and only I could....keep prepared for the unexpected arrival of the blessed guest.
My heart could no longer be a busy inn, with more than enough guests. So many guests wanting to hang out in the lobby, or stay up late in the pub, that I thought I could afford to miss having the unexpected visitor...the birth of the infant Christ...at my door. I could not be so distracted that I missed the opportunity to stand watch in the obscurity of a manger and see a miracle.
So I set to work preparing a room that day. Knowing that the next time this person came to my thought...or across my path...there would be a warm fire burning, fresh linens on the bed, dog-eared copies of the Bible and Science & Health on the shelf , a freshly baked loaf of bread, a pot of soup, and a cup of cold water on the table...and they would be received...still.
And they were. And I was.
"He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love,
and wonders of His love,
and wonders, wonders, of His love."
Your grateful inn-keeper with many rooms left to prepare in her manger heart...
Kate Robertson, CS
[song credit: Casting Crowns 2008]