Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In recent years, things have felt out of control. As the pandemic recedes, earthquakes, floods, and fires fill our newsfeeds. Wars and political rifts are prevalent, and it seems people’s hearts have grown cold. Despite how we may feel though, these things are nothing new. When Jesus was born, Israel lived under Roman rule and they continually experienced violence, oppression, and political gamesmanship. By faith, Israel hoped the messiah promised by the prophets would come. They expected a human king who would restore Israel to power and were surprised by the King who actually came. In humble human form, God came to establish His kingdom—not through military might, but through self-sacrifice.
In context, both of today’s passages are about preparing for the King’s arrival. Psalm 24 celebrates the manifestation of God’s presence—the Ark of the Covenant—arriving at Mount Zion. Like the gates, we get to open ourselves up and let the King of Glory come in.
In Luke 21, the disciples comment on the beauty of the temple and to their surprise, Jesus prophesies its destruction. Distressed, they ask what will signal the time is near. Jesus responds with a long list of signs of the end times. Some things on the list, like earthquakes, famines, and wars, have been happening and will continue to do so. Some events, like the destruction of the temple, have already occurred. Other signs, including Jesus’ return, have not taken place yet. When Jesus comes with glory and power, it will be unmistakable. Everyone will see Him (Matthew 24:27, 30) and God’s people will lift their heads and be encouraged because redemption is coming.
When we align Old and New Testament passages, we see how past, present, and future fit together. Today’s verses each contain the phrase “lift up your heads.” When we feel low, our chins drop, and we focus on the ground. Lifting our faces to the sky feels much more joyful. Today’s verses say, cheer up, the King is coming! All will be well. Immanuel has come and will come again.
During the busy Christmas season, we can experience anxieties that weigh our hearts down and take our eyes off Jesus. We may dread interacting with a challenging relative or be grieving a loss. Whatever is going on, we bear the burden of our expectations. So, how do we navigate the worries that can bog us down? By leaning into faith and opening our hearts to the King. Here are some suggestions to try:
Our Christmas experience hinges on who or what we depend on. Faith in Jesus is the foundation of a life well-lived. When we catch ourselves head down in discouragement, we can lift our eyes to Jesus, the perfector of our faith, and remember redemption is near.
The second candle of Advent is called the Bethlehem candle, and it represents preparation for the coming Messiah. As Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they possessed great faith in what was to come.
God, thank you for being a God who is all goodness. Your nature and Your plan are good—as evidenced by Your gift to us—Your own Son, Jesus. As we light today’s candle, we affirm our faith in You, Heavenly Father, and offer you our trust amidst all the challenges of this world. Strengthen our faith as we wait for Jesus’ coming. Help us to let go of our own plans, and unabashedly embrace Yours.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Father, thank you for our faith, and grant us added faith in increasing measure as we meditate on your word and grow in our understanding of who you are. Fill us with hope today. In this Christmas season, we hope for a world at peace with wise and servant leaders working to bring about peace globally. We hope for families and marriages to be restored, filled with love for one another and for their neighbors, bringing about peace in their own homes and neighborhoods. Increase our faith to believe for these things, even if we cannot see them. We wait on you, Father, as you open our eyes to see Heaven brought to earth through the work of your faithful people. Bring to our minds and hearts how we might engage with our families and communities to make a better world right where we live. And like Mary, who was commended for her faith even when she could not know all that would result when she obeyed, may we be expectant in hope and counted as faithful. Amen.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Father, thank you that we trust in you. Help us to trust you more and more. When life gets hard, and difficulties abound, when we are tired and have lost patience and hope, enable us to lean not on our own understanding or evaluation of the situation but to lean into who you are. This is a busy and often chaotic time of year, Lord. We want to trust in you and walk with you throughout our days, knowing that we are on the path you have for us. You are a God rich in mercy and steadfast in love. You have the power to make us new. Make our hearts to trust in you and you alone. In all our ways, whether alone or in company, when we are walking, sitting, working, serving, playing, praying, and just being, may we seek you out and acknowledge you and confess your goodness. Thank you for making our way straight as we trust in you and your word. Amen.
“So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:5
Dear God, we do not want only the world’s wisdom. We are bombarded with the things this world calls wisdom, especially in this Christmas season. All too often we depend upon our own knowledge or the insights and judgments of others. Sometimes that’s sufficient to see us through, and yet, at times, we need more. Sometimes, the situation requires more than just the right answer at the moment. Often, we need a deep understanding to judge correctly what is going on in our lives, and that understanding is beyond us and those we highly esteem. Father, we desire the wisdom that is spirit-filled, established in the study of your word, and time spent with you through prayer and meditation. As our eyes are opened to see your power in our lives, in the past, present and in the days to come, may we see and understand your wisdom. Then, our faith will rest on the knowledge and understanding that you are the powerful one, making all things new and that our faith can rest on you. Amen.
“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Father in heaven, it is tough to be still. Why is it so uncomfortable to just sit still? Whether we are waiting on good news like the birth of a grandchild or on more heavy news like will my son be deployed, the feeling of not knowing and waiting can be excruciating. How long, Lord, must we wait and be still before you? How do we wait? Do you perhaps have something to teach us in the stillness of waiting? Help us to see, Lord, that inactivity itself is beneficial to us. Fill us with hope and peace, and enable us to fully rest in your presence. Help us to carve out time to be still during this holiday season. Our faith grows as we wait on you, and we are training ourselves to be submissive to your will. Our expectancy will turn to understanding when the waiting is over, and we will praise your name and give you thanks in all my circumstances so that everyone will hear of your faithfulness and your name will be exalted. Amen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Father, as we wait for your coming, as we wait to mark and celebrate your incarnation, we feel the trouble we are in. There is conflict, lack of peace and deep pain in this world. We feel unsettled, and we have no words to express our confusion, sadness and fear. Jesus, we are thankful that you have spoken to us through your word. Peace comes from being in you. What does “being in you” mean? Help us to learn and understand the union and communion we have with you, Jesus. Help us to believe that what is true about you, Jesus, is now true about us because we have believed and are in you. We can trust you in the deep places and have a peace that is beyond understanding. You want us to be courageous, to live full of hope knowing that you have overcome and are overcoming. This holiday season, Lord, may we bring peace, full of courage as overcomers. Amen.
The weeks leading up to Christmas are the perfect time to invite friends over for some cookie baking or simply do it yourself and share them with your neighbors. Check out this recipe for delicious sugar cookies. Buy some cellophane bags like these and wrap them with festive ribbon to hand out to friends, colleagues and neighbors.