Advent (n); 1: The period of four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting; 2: A period of preparation and anticipation for the Christmas season.
To be honest, I haven’t really thought too much about Advent. I wasn’t raised (or really remember participating) in some of these common Christians rituals. But when I was asked to speak on the advent wreath and the candle of Hope (you can see the sermon HERE), it changed this for me.
In my research and preparation I came to discover the depth of this (long forgotten) practice of preparation and focus. A time where the church intentionally set their hearts and minds on Christmas and the second coming of Christ.
These days I’m all about intentionality.
I need it in my life. Since we’ve had kids (a grand total of 3 Christmas’)… I’ve gotten lost in it. My excuses have been moving, pregnancy, school, ordination… granted, these are amazing excuses (at least in my book), but they are still excuses. They are my justifications for why another year came and went focused on the “STUFF” Christmas isn’t “suppose” to be about.
So this year I am going to be intentional. Now. Today. This week. & The following weeks until Christmas is here.
And here’s how…
I love them. And recently God has been using them to focus me and give me some poetic words to dwell on throughout the day.
So, this week (week 2 of Advent), here’s what I am reading Psalm 121:1-2. Literally, I am just reading 2 verses every time I have a quiet time/open my bible/think about God. Two verses for ONE WEEK. Sometimes I think we get lost in trying to read/memorize/study huge chunks of scripture. And what we lose is really letting those verses soak in, change us, shape us. This approach has allowed God’s words to become a part of me. Shape me. & stick with me.
So, let’s look at verse for this week…
Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Help. it’s good word. A word that means “the act of assisting or aiding someone.” That’s a great word. The problem, I am TERRIBLE at asking for it.
I am good at “get it done.” Or “push through.” Or “just keep moving.” Asking for help isn’t on that list.
So, I resonate with this psalm. I feel the psalmist as they claim, “I lift my eyes to the MOUNTAINS. Where does my help come from?”
The psalmist is looking at the mountain. A giant obstacle, mound of earth waiting to be climbed and conquered and asked…. Where does my help come from?
But quickly the psalmist answers with “My help from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Translation: my help comes from the Lord—the one who made the very mountain I am staring down.
December is a mountain for me.
It’s a mountain of expectations and celebrations and difficult memories. It used to be favorite month as a kid. I loved my birthday being early in the month and then followed by the Christmas celebrations of trees and lights and decorating. And yes I’ll be vain, I loved the gifts that came on BOTH December 8th & December 24th. I loved Christmas morning breakfast. And going to the movies during the day and napping for what felt like an eternity.
Just thinking of these memories fills me with such joy (and rest).
But now somehow, in my old(er) age, December has become a mountain.
A mountain of plans and birthday expectations. A mountain of reminders that loved ones are no longer with us. A mountain of juggling family time and decorating and advent wreaths and making it all feel significant. A mountain of parties and celebrations and people we “need” to see.
And so, I lift my eyes to this mountain and ask where does my help come from?
Does it come in better planning? Or saying no? Or not caring? Or going to bed earlier? Or praying more or quiet times or … Where Lord? Where does my help come from?!
My help comes from the LORD… the maker and creator of families and celebrations and life and people and birthdays and kids and rest… and ALL. OF. IT.
But to be honest my struggle isn’t in the “crying out for help.” I know God will come. I know God is the only one that offers the peace and hope and joy I need.
My struggle is in the “lifting of my eyes.”
Will I lift my eyes to the “mountains” or will I lift my eyes to the maker of the mountains?
Will I keep my eyes on the mountain?
Will I focus on the mountain?
Will I obsess about the mountain?
Will I try and conquer the mountain on my own?
Or will I lift my eyes to the Lord?
Will I fix my gaze on the author and perfector of my faith?
I chose to lift my eyes to the Lord.
To glance at the mountain. Pray about the mountain. Prepare for the mountain.
By lift my eyes to the Lord. The maker of the mountain.
and that is my hope and challenge this week. To do the work of lifting. It’s not easy. And it’s definitely not natural to me.
But in learning to shift my gaze upward, I am training my heart and my character to be that of focus, determination, prayer, hope, peace, joy, contentment… all of the things I could use a little more of.
So, I lift.
I glance at that mountain & then choose to LIFT my eyes to the maker of the heavens and earth.