Tonight, our sweet little boy opened the advent box before going to bed. With anticipation and glee in his eyes and sniffles in his little red nose, he found the Advent word of the day (he has the worst cold he's ever had right now...glad to get this through and done with before Christmas and so thankful that during his entire first year of life he has hardly had any illness! What a refreshing gift to our family and we thank God for good health when we have it!) The word Joey found in the box tonight was Worship. Of course he can't read yet, but I love the fact that he thinks he can. He flips through books so contemplatively, carries them around as he walks, with a pondering look on his face. He acted so excited about the word tonight, as if his little heart leapt with praise to the Heavenly Father. Maybe his little heart very well did leap with praise...He does a lot of baby talk these days. We can only distinguish a handful of words, such as "DaDa" "MaMa" "YumYum" and "Hi" but the rest of them we can't quite understand, even though he repeats them emphatically and acts like he knows exactly what he is saying. We might think it is just babble, but to the Lord, it is simple- it is pure and beautiful worship.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
You have established strength because of Your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things
that He did, and the children crying out in the temple,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, and they said to Him,
"Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them,
"Yes; have you never read,
'Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?"
I love these verses. So often in our culture, children have the last word. We are in a rush, we are moving in the direction of important things. Our kids slow us down, they make messes, they get distracted, they seem to have no concept of all that is "important". We are busy "doing big and great things" at work, at church, in society... Yet in God's Kingdom, it is upside down from what we expect and think. Children have the first word and Jesus welcomes them, because their lips are full of praise and their hearts are filled with faith. They are innocent and unaware of many of the world's worries, and because of that, they are concerned with the things of God. They notice the little bug sitting on the leaf. They are mesmerized by the floating cloud that looks like a boat. They giggle when we are in a very serious situation and break the ice. They ask the most innocent questions. They dance and sing and clap with joy, just because they are alive, they are free, they are filled with a special wonder that so often the world steals as the years go by and we "grow up". In fact, Jesus addressed this just three chapters earlier in the Gospel of Matthew:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying,
"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said,
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
What a gift it is to be a mom, to witness the joy on Joey's face, even when he is suffering from an uncomfortable cold. I see him choose joy even through adversity. Little ones are just like that. They might whine and fuss a little bit, but they will always find something positive to laugh about, something to delight in, something to rejoice over, and God gains all the glory. Oh if only I could go about my day and continually be in a state of worship and child-like faith. Oh, if I could get just off my high horse and forget the nonsense of the "big important things I have to do" (has anyone read Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle? I so often feel like I am the big Dump Truck and I treat those around me like all the farm animals and Little Blue...and then I realize later that I wasn't so important after all!) I crave the innocence of childhood, when I would run like the wind, climb trees without a care in the world of ever falling, count the dust particles in the light coming through the window at nap time, daydream the most beautiful fairytales, create art for the pure enjoyment of it, and talk to Jesus as if He really were my best friend and closest companion. I want to worship with abandon and joy like a child that dances in puddles. I want to praise with hands lifted high and heart beating with passion. I want to glorify and magnify the King of Kings just as a shepherd boy would, running to the stable from that hill outside of Bethlehem.
In finishing tonight's Advent reflection, I want to turn to just a few verses that highlight worship. In doing so, I opened one of my favorite books, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle. I was introduced to Phyllis Tickle's books, which utilize the ancient Christian tradition of praying the Daily Offices, by Pastor Bo Matthews, my pastor growing up. She takes verses and prayers and readings from the Book of Common Prayer and the writings of the Church Fathers, and blends them into incredible, focused prayers for each "hour" of the day (Morning, Midday, Vespers, and Compline). I want to encourage anyone who desires to begin the New Year with a more earnest prayer life and more disciplined Scripture study to get yourself a copy of this book. I promise you- if you get in the habit of reading this, your spirit will be moved to depths of worship and peace in Christ like never before. It's simple, but it's Scriptural, and when our prayer is rooted in Scripture, it is powerful. (I, myself, want to get back to really diving in deeply into the "offices" of the day and making this just a part of my every day life again).
So here are some passages from today's readings:
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His Name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is upon the mighty waters.
For one day in Your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD; let all flesh bless His Holy Name for ever and ever.
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your Name for ever and ever.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing Your praise. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and praise Your Name, because of Your love and faithfulness; For You have glorified Your Name and your Word above all things...
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.
Praise the LORD, all you nations; laud Him, all you peoples. For His loving-kindness toward us is great, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Hallelujah!