“I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2, NRSV
I grew up near the bottom of a big hill, with another hill in my backyard. For those of you who live in non-elevation varying places, I also grew up nearby mountains and other high hills. An image such as this from Psalm 121 is easy to picture for me. To the west of my hometown are the majestic Olympic Mountains, and to the east the higher points of the Cascade Mountains including majestic views of Mt. Rainier.
This year, I am working in an area where on a clear day I can see Mt. Hood to the southeast, Mt. St. Helens to the north, and Mt. Adams to the east. These are three majestic mountains and volcanoes in the Cascade range.
In thinking about Advent, the presence of hills (or mountains) in scripture are often places of where we look up. We wait, we pray, we hope. In times of uncertainty and desperation we look heavenward. For whatever reason this often leads us looking up. So perhaps its only natural that the Psalmist proclaims, “I lift up my eyes to the hills…”
Hills can also be metaphorical of natural challenges in our journeys. They are obstacles requiring us to climb, and cause us to slow down for breath and wisdom. You can’t always just walk straight up and over a hill, let alone a mountain. You need to find a safe way to pass over. Life is like this, its a journey with challenges and changes. In this time of waiting, wondering, and expectation we can’t just go straight to the manger. Joseph and Mary couldn’t just go straight to Bethlehem. Their journey was one with challenge, not the least of which involved being a pregnant woman traveling on a donkey. I can’t imagine that feeling on so many levels obviously. Or how about the societal challenge of Joseph and Mary being together, when Mary we believe became pregnant as a virgin because of the Holy Spirit? Or, the challenge after Jesus was born, of being a refugees in another land (Egypt), avoiding the orders of death for newborns from Herod?
There are great challenges and injustices in the world today which we cannot just call hills, so please don’t assume I am trying to trivialize anything like that. Today I’m simply struck by the double use of the term, hill. It is a symbol of a challenge needing to be overcome, but also a place of beauty, and perhaps even a spot in creation closer to heaven.
Whatever you believe, I tend to resonate with the words of “Go Tell it On the Mountain.”
Life may be hard and uncertain. Its challenges and injustices might bring us to our knees. But especially in those moments we are reminded of the beauty, love, and promises of God.
We give thanks to God for that, and join in the song, “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!” The world needs to be reminded of this more than ever. Emmanuel, God with us, means that we are not alone. God walks with us over the mountains and hills of life, and is already waiting for us on the other side as well as being with us every step of the way.
What hills do you look up towards? What hills are you in the midst of crossing or preparing to cross this Advent?