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.
This beloved Advent hymn (something often believed to be an oxymoron) is based upon Psalm 24, with imagery that lends itself to the arrival of the Messiah in many different contexts. From the first verse alone, it might seem that we are looking at the beginning or end of Holy Week, or perhaps expecting to the second coming and subsequent return to Jerusalem.
However, as the verses progress, it becomes clear that the 17th-century author was attempting to connect the mighty gates of God’s capitol city with the personal “portals” within our hearts. The lyricist speaks of the preparation for Christ’s arrival that requires diligence and persistence in following Christ’s commands that our hearts may indeed be a temple for him.
Throughout the centuries, Christian mystics have believed that it is within our sacred heart-space that God resides. There the love of God burns within us, sometimes as a roaring bonfire and other times as only embers. But it is from that very center of our being that God’s love, life, hope, joy radiate out into the world.
To prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival does not mean fasting in sackcloth and ashes, for our Lord agreed with Isaiah that is not the fast of God’s beloved. Instead, we are to accept the fast that the prophet suggests: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, release the captives, bring good news to the poor, and so on. In other words, our preparation comes from growing in our willingness to let God’s love be born through us each and every day.
So let us prepare for Christ’s arrival with anticipation and patience, even as we pray with the writer: Redeemer, come! I open wide my heart to thee; here, Lord, abide. Let me thy inner presence feel; thy grace and love in me reveal.
Reverse Advent Calendar: Think about calling a local shelter and asking what supplies they need – perhaps blankets, pillows, or toiletries. Then work with your friends to collect as many of these items as you can before Christmas to serve the homeless during those cold winter nights.