I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
“LORD OF THE HOUSE”
My wife Heidi and I have been working harder than ever to prepare for our family Christmas this year. It’s a huge deal every year, of course, but 2020 has really ramped up the anticipation and desire to get together. We spent weeks finishing a new room in our basement so we would have extra space; we decorated the house inside and out; we bought all our presents, planned our meals, and dusted off the rack of Christmas CDs. And then on top of it all, this year we have the added preparation of staying as safe and smart as possible while the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
But what if we don’t get everything ready, will Christmas still come? What if we are unable to get together in person for Christmas this year—will we still be a family?
Obviously, the answer to both of those questions is “yes.” Our holiday preparations don’t cause Christmas, any more than the waiting and hoping and longing of Israel caused God to send their long-expected Messiah in the first place. In fact, the things we do don’t cause God to do anything at all. But the things God does can and should cause us to respond—in preparation, in wonder, in worship. In the same way, gathering together doesn’t make us a family. It is being a family that ramps up our anticipation and desire to be together.
Psalm 122 is another of the “Songs of Ascent,” celebrated as the people of Israel journeyed to Jerusalem. The songwriter begins by remembering his anticipation and desire to make the pilgrimage, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (vs. 1). And now he has arrived, “Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.” (vs. 2). The pilgrims stand in awe of the Holy City. This place represented the unity of God’s people (vs. 3-4), it communicated strength and security, it promised peace and prosperity (vs. 6-9). Or did it? What exactly made Jerusalem such a great place? And what was the real cause of this pilgrim’s joy?
The cause of Jerusalem’s greatness was the promise and presence of God! God wasn’t within those walls because the city was so strong and secure; He hadn’t decided to come because it was such a peaceful and prosperous place. Those great things were true of Jerusalem because God was in the midst of it. In fact, wherever God is present there is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
Likewise, Jesus didn’t come because we prepared a little place in our kingdom for him; he came to prepare a place for us in His glorious kingdom (John 14:1-3). His promise and presence causes us to worship him with gladness and come before him with joyful songs; to enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise (Psalm 100). He is the source of our hope and the cause of our joy!
During this current pandemic crisis, many of us are wondering how long it will be until we can once again say, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our holy desire is as strong as ever, but our human patience is wearing thin! But remember this: however long it takes, we can be assured that Christmas will still come; God’s promise and presence is still with us; and we continue to be a family of God, wherever we may be.
God was never limited to a building or temple in the past (Isaiah 66:1-2), and he isn’t today. Our preparations, celebrations and buildings aren’t what cause our Christmas worship to happen; Christ is! Jesus is “the reason for the season.” We no longer have to focus our hope on the House of the Lord, because the Lord of the House is here with us! Stay thirsty—for Him—my friends!