Thursday, December 7, 2017

Midweek Advent Worship (Psalm 19:14)

Dear Advent Christians who await and anticipate the coming King,

I will give you a moment.  Think about your activities from day-to-day.  How would you describe your life?  I will give you some options.  Is it more about resting or more about rushing?  I can guess.  It can be pretty hectic, right?  For everybody.  Young and old.  Ask anyone.  It is just relative as to what is or who is “busy.”  But it is real.  We all feel it.

As we close out another year on the calendar, we can look back over 11 months now.  How would you depict your events from month-to-month?  It is the same, isn’t it?  Some are just more full than others—like April is for the accountant with taxes or June for the baker with weddings.  It can be harried.  And yet we continue to kid ourselves that things will slow down.  Maybe in January.  But in reality, there is always one more thing to do.  And then one right after that.

Now what about every day this month?  As Christmas creeps closer  (or better, races rapidly—19 more days, still double digits), there is more than enough to do—cooking or baking, decorating or wrapping—all in between school or work.  It can get frantic and chaotic.  All of that can ruin or even wreck December 25th.

So how do we stop it even though we can’t slow it down?  That is what Advent is for.  And this time together on a Wednesday evening.  We pause this night as we look at a prayer of David.

I would imagine as a shepherd boy, David had some quiet time every once in a while at night to look up at the heavens and the skies  (Ps 19:1).  He could reflect on the “the glory of God” and the “work of his hands”  (Ps 19:1).  God is great, making himself known in his creation.  But God is also good, making himself clear in his Word—giving us gifts like joy, light, and wisdom  (Ps 19:7-10).

As David reviews those things, he makes a request:  “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight”  (Ps 19:14).  He wants two specific factors to be acceptable like any of the Old Testament sacrifices  (Lv 1:3; 19:5).  You don’t give someone you love a present that is broken or busted.  (Not even if you are “re-gifting.”)  The same is true of any animal brought to the temple.  It would not be suitable if it was diseased or damaged.

And so we echo:
“May the words of my mouth … be pleasing in your sight”  (Ps 19:14).  That is, what is on our lips.  As we travel to the stable again this year, that may not be too tough.  We join in singing the familiar Christmas carols on playlists or favorite Christmas hymns in church.  Those are a blessing so that we are speaking the right things as they center our words on the message and meaning of this holiday—Jesus became flesh to live with us  (Jn 1:14; Is 7:14).  We can repeat as Mary magnified God when she learned that she would be the mother of Jesus.  “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”  (Lk 1:46).  Jesus has rescued us from sin and Satan.  He has removed their threat.  For that reason we can confidently declare:  “Jesus is my Savior  (Mt 1:21)—born in the town of David for me”  (Lk 2:11).  He has come to bring peace to the world, to me—by living perfectly and dying innocently and rising triumphantly  (Lk 2:14).  All for us.
“May … the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight”  (Ps 19:14).  That is, what is in our heads—our thoughts and our contemplations.  As we trek to the manger, that might be trickier.  We sprint here and speed there.  Who has time to reflect—except on a long shopping list?  It seems almost that as soon as we sit down, we shut down.  But it is good to fill our heads, not with foolishness, but with fulfillment.  Mull over in your mind all of the many promises God made—the Serpent-Crusher, Immanuel, who would be born in Bethlehem to be pierced for our transgressions, the LORD our Righteousness  (Ge 3:15; Is 7:14; Micah 5:5; Is 53:5; Je 33:16).  All of them God kept.  We can imitate Mary also as she turned over all the events of that first Christmas evening after the shepherds paid a visit to the cattle shed  (Lk 2:19).

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight”  (Ps 19:14).  That is a fitting prayer because of all of the distractions this time of year.  We feel obligated to attend this party or attempt this purchase.  Not that those things are wrong.  But we may have to make an intentional effort like the people making their way out to John the Baptist  (Mk 1:5).  It wasn’t easy to hike from Jerusalem to the Jordan—downhill there and uphill back, logging many miles in the round-trip process.  But away from the disturbances and disruptions, they could concentrate on the Lord’s messenger, confess their sins, and crave baptism for the sending away of all of their guilt  (Mk 1:4).  That was not a waste of time for them—or for us.  The same is true as we head with those men keeping watch over their flocks by night to see the baby wrapped in cloths and then to herald to all what they had seen and heard  (Lk 2:12,18).  We proclaim from our mouths what we have processed in our hearts.

We notice to whom this prayer is addressed:  “O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer”  (Ps 19:14).  He is …
The “LORD”  (Ps 19:14).  He is the changeless, ageless One whose mercy is continual and whose might is constant.
“My Rock”  (Ps 19:14).  Hannah called him the same thing  (1 Sa 2:2).  He is like a large boulder.  He is One we can go to who is a source of safety and security.  There is no one else that we can turn to who is bigger or no other to trust in who is better.  And each one of us can say, “He is my Rock.”
“My Redeemer”  (Ps 19:14).  Jesus has paid the ransom to set us free—not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood shed on the cross  (Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article).  We belong to him as he claims us as his own, providing for us and protecting us.  Each of us can state, “He is my Redeemer.”

It is Advent.  But Christmas is coming.  We want to be ready.  Pray for appropriate Advent preparation with David’s plea.

We read from Psalm 19:14:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

December 6, 2017

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