In countless churches across the United States, and probably around the world, this verse greets churchgoers every Sunday as they enter the sanctuary, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (niv). Every time I visit a new church or attend a committee meeting, I stop at the entrance of the sanctuary to get a first impression and more often than not I find these words.
We have to admit that these words are powerful and joyful. They signify a group of people being glad to go to a familiar place, the house of the Lord. But what of those who feel they are not invited? What of those children of God who do not know where the house of the Lord is?
During this season of Advent—this season of eager anticipation and of radical hospitality—I have to stop and ask with whom are we to rejoice? Who is being left out? I know a day laborer in San Francisco who lives under the freeway near my home and church. I am constantly inviting him to church or social gatherings. Often he admits to me that he does not dare enter the church or the parsonage for fear of being judged—judged for what he is wearing or because he has not been able to take a shower for the week. Unfortunately this has been his experience of “church” many times over.
We must realize that we are living in a different time. Some people can no longer assume that church is a safe and welcoming place. We must be willing to be the ones who say, “Let’s go,” as Jesus so often said to friends and strangers. We must be willing, especially during this season, to be a loving people who go and seek those on the outside.
Gracious God, you welcome me and love me. Help me to be the arms and heart of Christ in my corner of the world. Amen.
Advent is a season for turning our minds to the coming arrival of the Christ child. Isaiah looks forward to a future day when peace will reign in Jerusalem. All nations will come to hear the wisdom of the Lord. The psalmist rejoices in going up to Jerusalem in his own day. Jerusalem is a center of peace and a place for righteous judgment among the nations. Both readings inform Jewish expectations of a bright future with the arrival of the Messiah. Paul tells the Romans that part of receiving the reality of the Messiah is self-preparation. We should put aside immoral living and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew looks forward to the future return of the Son of God, which will happen at an unexpected time.
Read Isaiah 2:1-5. How do you look to the Bible’s stories, prayer, and the Holy Spirit to help you work toward God’s kingdom?
Read Psalm 122. What does it mean for you to pray for peace?
Read Romans 13:11-14. How do you stay awake to salvation’s nearness?
Read Matthew 24:36-44. Who in your life lives as though they expect the Son of Man? What does it look like to be ready to meet Christ?
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