Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
Guest Blog by Andreas Köstenberger
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing!” (Isaac Watts)
The hymn writer’s words, of course, echo Luke’s ominous remarks that at the birth of Jesus, there was no room for him and his parents in the inn (Luke 2:7). John makes it even plainer that not everyone received the earth’s coming King with open arms: “The true light, which gives light to everyone,” John writes, “was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, but his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9–11).
How tragic! Yes, Jesus was rejected by many, even most, whom he came to save. This is the sad reality of Christmas. Truth is not always welcome in this sin-scarred world of ours, as we are reminded of almost every day. Yet fortunately John doesn’t stop on a note of rejection; instead, he continues with a note of reception: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13).
Are you, and am I, receptive to Jesus? Or is my heart’s entrance closely guarded just as Pilate and the Jewish authorities placed guards at the empty tomb? What an irony! They tried to keep Jesus out, but they couldn’t keep Jesus from coming back to life! Similarly, it is utter folly for us to think we can keep Jesus out of our lives. At this special time of year when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we should echo the words of the hymn writer: “Let every heart prepare him room!” And what better way to do this than reading selected portions of Scripture about the Messiah’s coming in the time leading up to Christmas?
The following Advent Reading Plan, reproduced from The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation by Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and Alexander E. Stewart (foreword by Justin Taylor; Wheaton: Crossway, 2015) includes six readings each from the Old Testament and from Matthew, nine from Luke, and four from John, moving from selected key Old Testament texts expressing messianic expectations to the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke and ending with John’s prologue.
Ideally, these Scripture passages should be read in conjunction with the respective chapter in The First Days of Jesus as indicated in the chart below. This will make a wonderful set of readings for individual study, families, and small groups in local churches. This resource comes with our prayers for a merry, Christ-centered Christmas!
|Date||Scripture Passage||Topic||First Days|
|December 1||Luke 1:1–4||An account from eyewitnesses||Introduction|
|December 2||Genesis 49:8–12||The scepter of Judah||Chapter 1|
|December 3||Isaiah 9:6–7; 11:1–5||A child is born; a branch of Jesse||Chapter 1|
|December 4||Micah 5:2–4||A ruler born in Bethlehem||Chapter 1|
|December 5||Matthew 1:1–17||Jesus’s ancestry||Chapter 1|
|December 6||Matthew 1:18–25||The virgin birth||Chapter 2|
|December 7||Matthew 2:1–12||The visit of the magoi||Chapter 3|
|December 8||Matthew 2:13–15||Escape to Egypt||Chapter 4|
|December 9||Matthew 2:16–18||Herod’s order||Chapter 4|
|December 10||Matthew 2:19–23||Return to Nazareth||Chapter 4|
|December 11||Luke 1:5–25||John the Baptist’s birth foretold||Chapter 5|
|December 12||Luke 1:26–38||Jesus’s birth foretold||Chapter 5|
|December 13||Luke 1:39–45||Mary’s visit to Elizabeth||Chapter 6|
|December 14||Luke 1:46–56||Mary’s song (Magnificat)||Chapter 6|
|December 15||Luke 1:57–66||Birth of John the Baptist||Chapter 7|
|December 16||Luke 1:67–80||Zechariah’s song (Benedictus)||Chapter 7|
|December 17||Luke 2:1–7||Birth of Jesus Christ||Chapter 8|
|December 18||Luke 2:8–21||The angelic announcement||Chapter 9|
|December 19||Luke 2:22–40||Simeon’s and Anna’s prophecies||Chapter 10|
|December 20||John 1:1–5, 18||The preexistent Word||Chapter 11|
|December 21||John 1:6–8, 15||John the Baptist’s witness||Chapter 12|
|December 22||John 1:9–14||The Word-become-flesh||Chapter 13|
|December 23||John 1:16–17||The law, grace, and truth||Chapter 14|
|December 24||Isaiah 52:13–53:12||The suffering servant||Chapter 15|
|December 25||Revelation 21:1–8||A new heaven and a new earth||Epilogue|
Click here to download an excerpt of The First Days of Jesus, including the preface, the introduction, and chapter 1.
You can also purchase a copy of the book from Amazon here, or from Westminster bookstore here.