by Faith Parker
“Joy to the world the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing”
This beloved Christmas carol, by Isaac Watts, is based on Psalm 98. It is an exuberant, all creation rollicking Hallelujah for the coming salvation of the LORD. God has remembered us and the world is rocking with delight!
As delightful as the carol is, the joyful words can feel distant to our experience. There is often energy in the holidays, but not necessarily joy. Life spins into lists of must dos with not a space to spare. Perhaps that is why the third line in the stanza stands out. “Let every heart prepare Him room.” This is the one thing, which necessarily precedes singing with joy.
How does one make room for Christ? How can a space be made where there is not space for one more thing? Humbly. There can be no joyous reception if the room is already occupied. Pride has no room for another. It is too busy with its own inflated concerns, but humility gives way.
We're all familiar with that age-old question, "What do I get so-and-so for Christmas"? Do they really need another toy, or book, or novelty coffee mug? While there is a certain amount of joy and cheer to be found in getting that "perfect gift", it also easy to look at our tendency to turn our own sacred holidays into consumeristic blitzes.
Don't fear, I'm not here to say we should do without, or do with less (although it's always worth considering). But I do want to offer some alternative gifts that might stand for something bigger, that in and of themselves are worth celebrating. So here are three gifts to consider giving to help extend and deepen the joy of giving this year.
1. Compassion International Gifts
You may be familiar with Compassion International and the incredible child sponsoring program they operate around the world. But did you know you can also give one time gifts to meet specific needs. It runs the full gamut from delivering bibles in the native language, to sponsoring hygiene classes and supplies, to sending food, providing chickens, goats or cows for a family or digging wells. Gifts of all dollar values can be put to great use, and you can give a gift on someone's behalf, and then give them a nice card that fully explains what the money went to support. I would also say that this is a great way for a family or community group to each contribute something and then see how far your money can go by all being generous together.