1st Sunday of Advent

 9Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
10Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24: 9-10

Psalm 24 helps us imagine a worship liturgy that acknowledges the majestic, glorious entry of God among the people of God. What a wonderful, invitational text to begin the season of Advent and Christmas. The earth and everything in it belongs to the Creator and who continues to reign supreme. We are invited into God’s holy presence by ascending to worship with “pure hearts,” and “clean hands,” an outward and inward manifestation of loving God and loving neighbor. Triumphant, God comes to us; the Lord of all draws near to us. Look up and see God in the earth and among the human family. Advent worship at its best!

It’s a wonder, then, how we can get so overly burdened at this time of year by things that have us looking down instead of up. As Christmas approaches with so many details to manage at church and at home, I begin looking down: down at my lists of things to do, down at the calendar as the days speed by, down at my credit card as I pay for online purchases aware of my own acquiescence to the commercial frenzy of holiday shopping. Advent is meant to be the joyful, hopeful preparation to receive God’s in-breaking good news. But somehow there is always a tension in the neck of whether to look down at our daily preoccupations or to look up for God in our midst.

Many years and a couple of churches ago, shortly before Christmas I found myself in the church office alone when there was a knock on the front door. I was dealing with last minute preparations for the upcoming multitude of Christmas services. I opened the door to a young adult who said, “I’m just passing through town on my way home for Christmas, and I wonder if I could go sit in the sanctuary for a few minutes. I was a member here several years ago when my family was going through difficult times. This church was our refuge. I live out of town now, but I remember how God seemed real in this place when we were going through the worst of it. I just wanted to stop by… so would it be OK if I just went up to the sanctuary for a little while?” She went upstairs into the sanctuary with its vaulted ceiling that had anyone who entered it looking up. She went upstairs to the sanctuary to remember, to pray, to give thanks, to leave again with a renewed sense of hope… I don’t know for sure, but that moment has stuck with me as a reminder of how the church is at its best when it invites us to enter in and look up from the things that weigh us down with the confident trust that the King of Glory may come in.

A prayer for this day:
On this first day of Advent, O God, fill us with hope and expectation. Help us look up from all the distractions that preoccupy our attention at this time of the year, so that we may see your glorious presence in the world and among the human family. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet (M. Div., 1986)
Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

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