I woke up smiling. Anticipation compelled me out of bed. Smelly clothes crowded the kitchen table; dishes clogged the sink; a wet diaper was smeared on the floor, and a mighty pillar of laundry towered on the couch. But I was excited. I marshaled my children like a quarterback prepping his team for the next play.
“Everyone, our friends arrive TODAY. We are going to clean all the cervices, wash the towels, inflate the bed, and buy some groceries. From now until they leave, all toys are quarantined.”
We vacuumed, dusted, and made the spare bed. We dredged moldy things from the fridge and unearthed the coffee maker. We swept puzzle pieces from under the couch and hung fresh curtains. We baked and brewed and trimmed and tidied, and my heart hummed while we worked. Christmas is coming. Precious friends who have been distant for a long time are coming. Joy was waiting just outside my view.
As we prepared for a yuletide visit from friends, I prayed that we would be generous hosts. I asked that grace and hospitality would fill our everyday spaces, and the warmth of God’s mercy would characterize our interactions.
I was folding towels when I heard a whisper. “I go to prepare a place for you.”
My skin tingled. Jesus was speaking from two thousand years off, as clear and strong as if He were standing right behind me. “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Heaven bustled today too. One of the things Jesus went home to do was to get things set up for our arrival. I’m sure He could simply speak the next world into readiness, like He spoke the galaxies into being. Or, if He wanted to, He could assign lower-level angelic staff to prep the celestial mansions. But He implied that preparing a place for us was something He was planning to do Himself. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.” He didn’t say, “I’ll get everything set, have the Magnolia people stage the house perfectly, like we were filming a Google commercial, then someday I’ll receive you into an immaculate Heaven;” He said, “I will receive you to Myself.” It’s personal. It’s not about scented towels, coastal napkins, or distressed tree ornaments. It’s about being together, united forever in a place the Master of the universe prepared Himself.
At Christmas we celebrate the first coming, the miraculous, starry night when holiness blasted into the material world and settled in a manger. All the power of the cosmos condensed into a tiny, sleepy bundle with perfect little fingers. The Peacemaker. The Creator. The Redeemer arriving on His own planet and changing it forever.
As our home sparkles with uncharacteristic cleanliness, it reminds me that He is coming back. He is counting the days, not till Christmas, but until He breaks into the finite world again with dazzling finality and sweeps His church off her feet.
I’ve been singing Christmas carols this season with gusto. Not necessarily on key, but with a heart brimful of wonder. The best part of Christmas is the part that is still coming.