Advent Devotional: December 1
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord!"
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem-built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
– Psalm 122
Are We There Yet?
I still have vivid memories of long, cross-country road trips with my father. And like most kids, there were times when I asked that age-old question: "Are we there yet?" Fortunately, my dad was pretty good about periodic stops for snacks or bathroom breaks and I never doubted that we would ultimately arrive at our destination. However, I do remember one particular trip when it was late in the day and we were lost on a rural jungle road in the mountains outside of Mexico City. The winding road was in terrible condition, we were low on gas and it seemed that we kept passing by the same villagers every ten minutes. At one point we passed a disabled bus, its front axle wrenched off by a huge rut in the road. The prospect of not getting "there" was on all of our minds.
Lately, I've begun to question whether I've lost my way back onto that same jungle road, wondering: "Are we going to get there at all?" In my house, we were more than ready for the arrival of the holiday season. We shared an unspoken hope that our collective mood would be brightened in the wake of a divisive national election and a lot of bad news and uncertainty around the world and closer to home. Less cable news and more holiday music seemed to help a little, as we set out on another road trip towards Christmas and the promise of Christ's birth. And yet so far, the normal festiveness of the season seems muted by lingering doubts about the future.
Psalm 122 is generally recognized as a "pilgrim's song" or "a pilgrim's ode to Jerusalem." It describes the ritual ascent into Jerusalem and perpetuates the hope in a restored Jerusalem and a restored Davidic Kingdom. It is not only a song for those Pilgrims on the road, but for those who are off the road, seemingly lost in exile. Psalm 122 speaks of a city that is "bound firmly together" and it exhorts prayers "for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers." It's a comforting vision of a place of peace and unity – a place we would all like to be, especially now. I can envision a weary pilgrim on the road, focusing not on her present situation, but instead on the destination and prayers that she would be there soon.
At the beginning of Advent, there is often a lot of talk about the importance of the journey to Christmas and how we should not be distracted by the busyness of the season as we move forward. I think that makes a lot of sense. Embracing the journey is important. However, there are times when turning your thoughts to the destination may be more helpful, especially when the road is particularly rough and you're not sure you've got enough gas to get there. Ironically, focusing on the expectation of joy and the prospect of being in the presence of the newborn Jesus may at times be the best way to better realize that feeling in the present. Just as the Israelites prayed for the fulfillment of God's promise of Jerusalem, we expectantly pray for the peace of Christ and the promise of his birth in the world and in our lives. A "place" where we are each knit together in peace.
Today, I am ten-years-old again and impatiently asking: "Are we there yet?"
Ty Gomez is a NorthPark member, ruling elder, and soccer dad. In his spare time, he practices law, plans more unfinished woodworking projects, and cooks for the women in his home.