Monday, December 12, 2016

Music of Advent - Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates

Third Week of Advent—Psalm 24

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates by Georg Weissel, 1855

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates;
behold, the King of glory waits;
the King of kings is drawing near;
the Savior of the world is here!

I have been known to go a bit overboard on decorating the house for Christmas.  In recent years I have scaled it back a bit, not really because I find it prudent to do so, but because my children are grown and are no longer around to help me decorate.  Most years of my ministry I hold an open house at Christmas.  I do this so I can invite the church to come and see the parsonage that they lovingly provide.  I also do this because I like decorating for Christmas and I want others to see it. 

Right before the open house there is what can only be called a cleaning frenzy.  It’s part of the tradition of Christmas now.  Some people have spring cleaning, we have advent cleaning.  We prepare the house to receive honored guest and treasured friends.  I try to do this in plenty of time that I can de-frazzle before the guests arrive.  It wouldn’t do for the house to be perfect and my attitude to be poor.

This hymn echoes the words of Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, O gates!  It is a call to prepare to receive the King, at his arrival.  Part of the preparation told about in the Psalm is the preparation of the people of the city to greet the coming King.  They should prepare themselves by having clean hands and pure hearts, to be loyal to what is true and to be trustworthy and true themselves.  I think this is a great message for Advent.  Prepare yourself to receive the coming King. 

Have clean hands, meaning do that which can be considered clean.  It is what we do, more than what we think.  Do you treat others honestly?  Do you steal?  Do you harm?  Have clean hands with which to receive the Lord.

You should have hearts that are pure, that does not think about all the bad, but think the thoughts of Philippians 4:8.  Dwell on the positive, rather than the negative.  See good in people and in yourself.

To receive the King well, we should focus on what is true, and not give loyalty (or attention) to what is false.  And we should not be false ourselves, meaning we do not gossip or pass along bad information.    I think this is an important part of preparing our hearts in our day and age of satire in the media and the perpetuation of false stories. 

Go to the extent to receive the Lord as you would to receive honored guests.  I find that once my guests arrive, I look at the house through the eyes of my guests.  I notice all those things I had not noticed before.  I forgot to dust the cobwebs from the corners.  That window blind has a slat that is askew.  The tile on the floor seems to be coming up just a little in that area over there.  I find this as much part of the process as anything.  Noticing what they notice.

How does that relate to preparing for the coming of Christ?  What would you start to see in your life that in the light of the Light of the World, and through the eyes of Jesus comes starkly into view.  What cobwebby corners have you neglected?  What in your life is askew and not in line with the teachings of the Christ child?  What areas need repair, need cleaning, need clearing out?

Lift up your heads, O Gates!  Give us clean hands and pure hearts!  Let us prepare for the coming of the Lord!

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
   who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully. 
Psalm 24:4

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