Yesterday I wrote about the journey of Advent and where it leads us. Still, I can’t stop thinking as I continue on my own Advent journey this Christmas season, about all the pilgrims out there on their own Advent journeys and wondering, how are they doing? are they making progress? are they discouraged? have they given up hope of ever finding what it is they are seeking? do they have a star to guide them like the Wise Men did on that first Christmas night?
Even as I write these words, I have friends who are traveling cross country to be with family for Christmas. With a trailer and two dogs in tow, they are making their way slowly across our northern states until they should reach their destination, the Pacific Ocean on Oregon’s coastline. This is their physical Advent journey even as they continue on their spiritual Advent journey simultaneously. Both journeys require our all, all we have to give in dedication and perseverance to pursue the path that will lead us to what we so earnestly seek and desire.
I can’t help thinking it’s like that pearl of great price in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:45-46,
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
The Advent journey is the pursuit of something, rather Someone, worth pursuing at all costs. The shepherds discovered this to be true. The Wise Men knew it to be true. That’s why they left their kingdoms and their comforts to become foot travelers on dusty, dangerous roads until they should come into the presence of the King that they so diligently sought. (maybe it takes royalty to recognize royalty?)
Nevertheless, when people come into the Presence of the Living God, there is really only one fitting and appropriate response. Isaiah demonstrates this for us in Isaiah 6:5 where we read about his response,
” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried, ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ ”
Peter’s response was similar, when he realized he was in the presence of a Holy God. Peter and his fellow fishermen had just put their nets down into the water at Jesus’s suggestion, although they had fished all night without catching anything, but
“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ ” (Luke 5:6-8)
John the Baptist also recognized who he was in relationship to Jesus, the very One whose way John was sent to prepare. John said,
“After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8)
Our journey leads us into God’s presence, and in His presence we recognize clearly who we are as we stand before a Holy God. And indeed, standing is not what we do. Like all who have gone before us on this Advent journey, when we come into His presence, it is time to take a knee. Even those who are enemies of God are humbled in His presence. We read in John 18:3-6,
“So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, . . . asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am He,’ Jesus said. . . . they drew back and fell to the ground.”
The appropriate response in the presence of God – humility, reverence, repentance, worship, wonder, gratitude overflowing . . . this was the scene at the manger, this was the scene at the cross when the criminal on the cross on one side of Jesus cried out to Him,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” (he humbled himself, acknowledged Jesus’s lordship and Jesus’s power to grant eternal life even to the dying, in other words – he believed, he knew he was in the presence of the Living God even though human circumstances would suggest otherwise, but he recognized the Truth that was hanging on the cross next to him and he bowed down and he cried out)
Job had a similar experience when he came into God’s presence. Job’s response is recorded in Job 42:1-6,
“Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted. . . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Did Job’s reaction remind you of Isaiah’s or of Peter’s or of John’s? When I come into my Creator’s presence, my eyes are opened. In recognizing who He is, I can at last see clearly who I am as well. And like so many before me, I finally fall to my knees in recognition, reverence, repentance, praise and worship, fully restored and fully at home in His presence.
This is the destination of the Advent journey – to be in His presence. In His presence is great joy. Now, I have a confession to share – I have a new favorite Christmas movie that I had not seen before though it has been around awhile, I think. It is an animated movie, called “the Star,” which tells the story of Jesus’s birth through the perspective of the donkey that journeyed with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. It is the ending of this movie that is powerful in the truth it portrays. In the final scene everyone, all the various animal characters and all the people also, gather around the baby Jesus in the manger and one by one, everyone takes a knee. Everyone bows before the baby Jesus, acknowledging His true identity as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth.
The Star is filling the stable with light and all are humbly bowed in the presence of God’s Son come to earth. It is a fitting ending to the Advent journey of all the characters in this movie, as we leave them safe and satisfied at last, able to rest from the labors of their individual journeys and to enjoy the healing and the peace that now surround them.
As our Advent journeys continue, dear readers, let us take a knee as well and join the world in worship of our Savior King.
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;” (Psalm 95:1-7)
“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
My Redeemer came! My Redeemer is coming again! let every heart prepare Him room!
sincerely, Grace Day