It was 6 am on Christmas morning. The tree was decorated, the stockings were filled and gifts were waiting to be opened. The advent calendar had reminded us for 24 days that Christmas was coming. The living room was prepared to entertain four boys with toys, games, and sweets. Yet, all of the preparations would have to wait.
Our kids woke up, excited, but somewhat dismayed. They knew that gifts would come, but first, something more important was going to happen. We grabbed a few snacks and some coffee, jumped in the car and headed to San Diego. While our home was prepared, we were going instead to a very different Christmas morning at MCRD. 1200 Marine Recruits would not be entering a cozy living room when they woke up. This would be a Christmas unlike any other. They would eat breakfast with a group of recruits that they had just met, and then head to the base chapel for a Christmas morning worship service. No family, no friends, no stocking, no tree.
As one of the base Chaplains, my husband would lead the service, and some friends and I would be leading worship. We reminded our boys that the purpose of this day was to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to prepare room in our hearts to receive and worship him. This was an opportunity to give up some of our own comforts for a few hours and show others the love of Jesus. They grappled with the fact that this worship service might be the only time this season when these recruits would get to hear about the depths of Jesus’ love for each of them.
As we started to play the first song, I wondered if anyone would sing along or even knew these songs? To my surprise, within seconds almost everyone in the room was worshipping at the top of their lungs. I looked out to see some wiping away tears as others were raised in praise.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
These young men and women had been stripped of every convenience, including their cell phones. No family dinner, no Christmas traditions, no phone calls home. Yet the passion they sang with about their Savior’s birth demonstrated the room in their hearts that had been prepared for him. Following the service, my boys were moved by their passion and proceeded to talk with as many recruits as possible. They got it. God’s presence was evident.
While 2020 doesn’t necessarily resemble boot camp, it has caused me to stop and look at how different it has been. Much has been stripped away and maybe that’s good. Where is your focus this year? Is it on what isn’t or what is? If some of your traditions are not possible this year, could this be an invitation to focus instead on others? How are you preparing Jesus’ room?
Director of Counseling and Soul Care