I am often awed by the rich poetic truths found throughout the hymns in expressions of very few words. Half a line carefully articulated has stopped me mid-melody to consider and reflect. Just as an entire sermon can be given on one verse of scripture, a complete thematic unit can be created from one phrase of hymn.
This year one of the phrases that’s caught my attention in the Christmas carols is, “Let every heart prepare Him room,” from Handel’s “Joy to the World.” I wanted to spend some time with my children focused on this choice of words and tactilely explore all that it could mean to us. I thought I’d share what we did in the event that you could use a “new” Christmas lesson at your house.
We read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett. We also watched a few different film adaptations of Dickens’ novel.
We sang “Joy to the World.”
We made Heart Maps.
I handed each child a copy of “Opening Our Hearts” by Elder Gerald N. Lund and asked them if they knew what the Heart Maps and this talk had to do with “Joy to the World.” We then read through the talk together.
I wrote the phrase, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room” on a whiteboard and we dissected, discussed, and diagrammed each word individually. My kids supplied the ideas, and I include them here just for clarity of the lesson.
- Let – invitation; to not keep from doing; agency/free will
- Every – everyone; all; each; all that there could be—the Gospel and Atonement for all collectively and personally and individually
- Heart – the main or most important part; symbol of mind and will of men; strength and courage; tender, guarded place; can change
- Prepare – make or get ready; for a visitor, clean house—for Christ clean self; purify
- Him – Jesus Christ
- Room – space; place to live; with Christ “moving in” we don’t lose square footage but gain it—our hearts are enlarged to include others when we make room for Him
Then for each word, we also found sentences or paragraphs within Elder Lund’s talk that corresponded to our ideas.
We discussed other ideas found within the talk. We especially talked about Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart.” Using a bag of roasted pistachios, we talked about what it means to have a “broken heart.” Just as a pistachio that is sealed tight cannot be accessed, so is a heart that has no “cracks” in it for the Lord to penetrate. You cannot find the pistachio goodness inside if the shell is not pliable, nor can anyone find the goodness in your heart if it’s unbroken. Preparing room for the Lord means having a way He can enter.
We talked more of preparation. Elder Lund’s talk is about being open to the Spirit; we can’t make room for Jesus if we don’t have the Spirit. Referencing the Parable of the Sower, and faith being a seed, we discussed preparing our hearts like we would soil with labor and nutrients.
When Brother Lund began speaking of those whose hearts are set upon the things of the world, I was delighted that my children readily recognized Scrooge and that segued into a writing assignment I’d prepared with the following quotes and questions.
CHRISTMAS PAST: “’There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the rave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’”
*What good have you derived from Christmases past, and how has it reflected on Christmas’s namesake?
CHRISTMAS PRESENT: “’Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’. . .
. . .‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said, ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!’”
*What can you do now to change how you see and treat other people?
CHRISTMAS YET TO COME: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
How can you honor Christmas in your heart and keep it all the year in years yet to come?
We looked over our Heart Maps to see if everyone had already included Jesus. Then we copied Matthew 6:21 on the backs of the maps.
While listening to Michael McLean’s “The Innkeeper (Let Him In)” from The Forgotten Carols, we made personally meaningful collages by cutting and pasting Christmas cards around Neal A. Maxwell’s quote, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”
Finally, each child chose their favorite artist’s rendition of Christ knocking at the door. Under a printout, they copied Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.”
All these pages were then bound together in a homemade book to be cherished every Christmas!