OPINION: The season of preparation

"Take Control in 1, 2, 3."

That motto is the theme of National Preparedness Month for 2023. In 2021, the United States government created this month of preparedness to make sure that Americans were ready for natural disasters and severe weather. The entire idea centered around a reaction from many tornadoes and hurricanes that ravaged the middle part of the United States and coastal areas. The venture seeks to keep us aware and prepared should disaster strike.

It seems that preparation and awareness go hand in hand. You can't prepare if you're not aware, and if you aren't aware you won't prepare.

Sorry, I digress...That sounded like a line from Jackie Chiles, attorney-at-law, from Seinfeld.

Although we have set aside the month of September for awareness and preparedness for storms, I firmly believe that we are just now entering into The Season of Preparation.

At this time of year, we are all in preparation mode: Family visits, social gatherings, parties, church functions and many other events. As I write this article, we are expecting relatives into town from another state. With that visit comes all the little details that go with being prepared for visitors: A room must be prepared, food must be prepared, entertainment must be prepared and even mindsets and attitudes must be prepared. We all understand the preparations that happen this time of year.

And now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, with Christmas bearing down on us like that speeding car in the rearviewmirror, preparation becomes paramount -- even more now. This week, if you haven't already begun, we will start preparing our houses for Christmas trees, preparing our budgets for Christmas presents and preparing our schedules for all of the stuff we have to cram into it. Everything has to find its place.

"Let every heart prepare Him room."

I know that "Joy To The World" was not written as a Christmas carol by Isaac Watts in 1719. It does seem, however, as if Isaac Watts knew that we would get busy with the hustle and bustle of life, whether at Christmas or any time else. That line is particularly striking in the carol "Joy to the World" because it seemingly comes out of nowhere.

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come" – the arrival of the greatest person has come in the birth of Jesus Christ. Watts' next line comes at us as both a challenge and command: "Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room."

We all know that at this time of year our schedules go into a full nuclear meltdown. There simply is not enough time to get everything done that needs to get accomplished. By the middle of December we are bedraggled and threadbare with nothing left to give. That feeling takes away from the joy of the season.

So, let me pose a solution.

Let's take a moment to inventory our lives, if just for a few moments while you read this article. Let the words from Isaac Watts sink in before we get into the thick of the Christmas season: "Let every heart prepare Him room."

I don't know about you but I typically write out my week on Monday morning. Maybe it would be a good idea if the first thing that we wrote on our agendas for the week was: Prepare Him Room. That might cause all of the other tasks, details and meetings that we have to attend to maintain their less-than-pressing status in our lives. Maybe, just maybe, if we prepared room for Christ first - everything else would seamlessly flow together. Instead of just "trying to get through the holidays" we would be shouting "joy to the world."

So, my dear friends, I encourage you to take stock of your schedule this Christmas season. Let the words of Jesus give you the perspective you need during this busy time: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 NLT)

Listen to "These Christmas Lights" by Matt Redman.

Jeremy DeGroot is lead pastor at First Baptist Church Siloam Springs; a husband, daddy and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.