During Advent this year, I am reflecting daily using this Advent Photo Devotional. The word designated for yesterday, December 14th was #Gates, and the word for today, December 15th is #Open.
Have you ever reached a gate or doorway, and stopped to wonder and think if you really wanted to pass through it? Did you open the gate, or think about turning around?
Two famous Advent hymns have verses that feature gates in their second verse, “Hark, the Glad Sound!” as well as “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers.” Their melodies are ringing in my ears today.
“Hark, the glad sound! The savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne and every voice a song.
He comes the prisoners to release, in Satan’s bondage held. The gates of brass before him burst, the iron fetters yield.
He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure, and with the treasures of his grace to enrich the humble poor.
Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace, your welcome shall proclaim, and heaven’s eternal arches ring with your beloved name.”
Philip Doddrige’s text in “Hark, the Glad Sound,” describes the work of the Savior, the Prince of Peace. The gates are burst open wide. Sometimes in our own lives, it’s not so much up to us to pass through a gate, but rather we might need some help to open the gates. Think about the walls or gates that keep people from opportunities- perhaps the historical (and still existing) “glass ceiling” that separated men and women in the workplace; or the ways society creates barriers between groups; or the walls we create some times for “good order” and other times out of fear for safety around people who are different than us, or seeking refuge?
Advent is a season that offers us a good reminder that the world as we know it is changing (and needs to). The world that we may have created some sense of order in, that makes sense to us, is not permanent. And perhaps likely, the order we have created ourselves, isn’t all that good at all? It’s when we recognize this, that we really do need Jesus to come and burst open the gates and to bind the broken hearts.
It’s my hope, that when we see Jesus burst the gates open, that we too follow suit. It’s my hope that we bear signs of welcome, peace, and hospitality. Because in that we can rejoice. If we don’t, we end up acting like the rich man in Luke 16 who ignores the poor man named Lazarus laying outside his gate. (It does not go well for the person who ignores Lazarus laying by the gate).
Instead of being like the rich man who ignored Lazarus, be like the Savior described in “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” who makes the “gates wide open stand,” with a marriage feast waiting for all.
“Rejoice, rejoice believers, and let your lights appear; the evening is advancing, and darker night is near. The bridegroom is arising and soon is drawing nigh. Up, pray and watch and wrestle; at midnight comes the cry.
The watchers on the mountain proclaim the bridegroom near; go forth as he approaches with alleluias clear. The marriage feast is waiting; the gates wide open stand. Arise, O heirs of glory; the bridegroom is at hand.
The saints, who here in patience their cross and sufferings bore, shall live and reign forever when sorrow is no more. Around the throne of glory the Lamb they shall behold; in triumph cast before him their diadems of gold.
Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear; arise, O Sun so longed for, o’er this benighted sphere. With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see the day of earth’s redemption that sets your people free!”
How do you open the gates in your life? How do you open them for your neighbor in need?
“Hark, the Glad Sound!” Philip Doddridge & Thomas Haweis; found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 239.
“Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” Laurentius Laurenti, tr. Sarah B. Findlater, Swedish folk tune; found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 244.