To You I Lift Up My Soul
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 In You, my God, I trust. Let me not be ashamed, nor let my enemies exult over me. 3Surely none who wait for You will be put to shame; but those who are faithless without cause will be disgraced.…
You are my God and Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
20 Guide my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
Let us pray
Father in Heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your word.
Increase our longing for Christ our savior and give us the strength to grow in love and that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming of the light of his truth.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord
Following prayer, Light first Advent candle
As Advent begins, we are reminded that, the coming of the Christ child was foretold by the prophets, Malachi explains:
“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings of righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. Malachi 3:1-4”
In the process of refining metals, the metal is heated with fire until it melts. All the impurities separate from it and rise to the surface. They are then skimmed off, leaving nothing but pure metal. Without this heating and melting, there could be no purifying. As the impurities are skimmed off the top, the reflection of the worker appears in the smooth, pure surface.
With the patience of the Refiner of silver He sits till He sees His own image reflected in the molten metal. Now, just as we are purified by God, it is his reflection in our lives that become clearer to those around us.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come”. Says the Lord almighty.
Isaiah 9:2, 6–7:
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. […]
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.” (NIV)
It is written in Isaiah the prophet, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way”, a voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make paths straight for Him. In Matthew, we read,
"A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'"…"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River" (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6).
It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter - "Are you ready for Christmas?" At the bank drive through window - "Are you ready for Christmas?" At the doctor's office - "Are you ready for Christmas?"
I think the answer to that question depends on how you define "ready." Let me ask you this question: "Are you ready for Jesus?" Now that puts the idea of being ready in a completely different Christmas light, doesn't it?
Jesus came in a time in history when the world was relatively peaceful under the Roman rule. Travel was easy and there was a common language. The news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection had the potential to spread through the vast Roman empire. In Israel, common men and women were ready for Jesus, the Messiah. For 400 years, there had been no God-sent prophets since the days of Malachi. Now, the growing anticipation of a great prophet, a Messiah as described throughout the Old Testament, would soon come.
In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
As the people were waiting expectantly, they were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. When John appeared on the scene, the people were excited. Could he be the Messiah? Could this be the one they were eagerly awaiting? John, spoke with particular urgency that the people must turn from their sin to avoid punishment and to turn to God so they may experience his mercy and his approval. John had answered them all, I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come. The thongs of whose sandals, I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John continued to prepare the people for the coming messiah.
Ready for Christmas?
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:2 NIV).
We don't like the words "repent" or "repentance" very much. They mean "to make a radical change in one's life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin (another word we're not too fond of today) to God". Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward the Father. That was God's idea of the way to prepare for Christ's arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God's idea of preparing to worship Him today. Now that's what I call getting ready for Christmas!
Let's reflect for a moment on the words to this poem and then answer the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?"
"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high…
Then wearily sat for a moment AND READ
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
"Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?"
She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
"There's so little time and I've still to prepare.
Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It's the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin.
So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.
Father, just as You sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus, help me to clear the path in my heart, too. Show me the distractions in my life that block me from all-out worship of You this Advent. Lord, I await Your coming! As I celebrate the first Advent––the first coming––I look toward the day where I will see You face to face. I imagine what it will be like. Give me a heart, Lord, that looks for Your coming on a daily basis. Help me to live my life where I'm constantly seeking Your presence. My offering to You today is my righteous life for I know I am only clean because of Jesus. Show me today how I need to be refined, purified, forgiven. Give me the strength to ask for forgiveness and to then change my ways.
~Sarah Martin, from “The Awe & Wonder of Advent: Day 18”
I want to be ready for Jesus today and every day. I come to You now in repentance for my sins: my sin of selfishness, stubbornness, and rebellion. I turn from my self-centeredness today and commit to keep my focus on You. God, I cannot do this on my own. I am not able. So I ask that You fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
In Jesus' Name,
Now It's Your Turn
What do you think it means to be "ready for Christmas?"
What do you think it means to be ready for Jesus?
My hope as we await with anticipation for the Messiah is that we take the energy that we have in preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and rather prepare our hearts for Christmas and cultivate the spirit of expectancy.