Season of repentance, anticipation begins
Sunday, Dec. 1 opened the New Year for the Church with Advent, the four week season of repentance and anticipation of the birth of the long-prophesied and promised Messiah, which was first mentioned, many believers hold, when the earth was new, and Adam and Eve were put in that perfect Garden to be God’s obedient people, yet they sinned, distrusted their Creator.
What God saw as good, His human creation thought they could improve. So much suffering, horrific sin and its accompanying pain and death appear to have ruled the earth ever since. Birth, sin, and death are all what many see.
That Sunday, the church body I serve will open that worship service—after corporate Confession (of sin) and Absolution (forgiveness announced)—with our Psalm reading, number 122.
What a perfect worship service opening that is with “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”
The house of the Lord, for us Christians, is the church where God’s Word is read, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper are administered. Sins are forgiven, and songs of praise are sung in gratitude for our Lord’s grace.
The second verse of Psalm 122 depicts the peace and joy the participants experience in the location of that place of worship: “Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!”
The temple is in the City of God, and the people are glad to be there, where God has put them. Yes, there has been much strife involved in Jerusalem, especially as this psalm is dedicated to the much burdened David, the king, who was chased by King Saul whom God Himself had disposed in favor of David.
And that same King David was even challenged for the throne by his own son, Absalom, who was killed while trying to kill his father. Jerusalem was also where David plotted to kill another woman’s husband, so David could have her.
It was also the city that Jesus entered on a donkey, amid cheers and waving palm branches, only to be most brutally killed, dying and raised back to life by God the Father. (Matthew 21:1-11) So much sin to contemplate and confess. So much for us to forgive of one another.
Psalm 122:4-6 then guides the worshipper before entering the house of the Lord as to the why and what the believer should expect. Not all will be blessed, as the psalmist sang, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!”
The ones who love the Lord enter to experience a peace not with the world, but peace in the earth that God once declared was good. And they will know that peace because they know that although unworthy they are, God has forgiven them, and they have been moved by grateful hearts to forgive others.
The psalmist ends 122 with the sweet song of the cleansed heart, in joy of the coming of the Lord as the congregation in unity rejoins: “Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!
“For my brothers’ and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.”
Joyous Advent to you! Gloria Deo—Glory to God
Timothy Matthew is a former Ripley County resident and is from the Trinity Lutheran Church.