Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The First Week of Advent: Tuesday

Each day in Advent, we are preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's coming at Christmas. We are also anticipating his parousia, his personal return. This is the heart of the season--anticipation, expectation, preparation. Today's psalm reading, from Psalm 16, whets our appetite for his glorious presence.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. (verses 5-11)
God's presence is what makes the difference in the world and in our lives. Like the Levites of old, God's people are not those who possess lands or riches, but God himself, as their inheritance. In the darkness, we embrace the light of his counsel. Along the paths of daily life, he keeps our feet steady and our gait strong. When we pass through the door of death, we fear no evil, for instead of darkness and isolation, we find that we are "with Christ, which is far better" (Phil 1.23).

Psalm 16 is yet another testament to the God who made what some scholars call the Tripartite Promise (of which there are over 50 references in the Bible): "I will be their God, and they will be my people, and I will dwell in their midst."
  • When Jesus came into the world, the angel told his parents he would be called, "Emmanuel," which means "God with us" (Matt 1.23).
  • Before the risen Christ ascended to heaven, he told his followers, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt 28.20).
  • Looking forward to his return, he promised, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14.3).
We long for Jesus to come to us in specific ways during Advent. But we must never forget that he is really and truly present already: in the Word, in Spirit, in the worship and sacraments shared by his people, in the works of mercy and love that disciples do in his name. All these provide tastes of the "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore" that await us when he comes again.

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