December 3, 2016 – Pilgrims
“I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’
Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD—
An ordinance for Israel—
To give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there thrones were set for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.”
– Psalm 122:1-5
Pilgrims on the Way to Jerusalem
Three times a year, the Jews of Jesus’ day would go to Jerusalem to celebrate the three great feasts: The Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost, and Passover. Psalm 122 was written as a sort of pilgrimage psalm – a song to sing in celebration as you made your way toward Jerusalem. Imagine caravans of families riding into Jerusalem as they joyously belted out these words.
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'”
Imagine the excitement, the joy, the celebration!
It reminds me of Christmastime during my childhood. My family lived far away from my grandparents, aunts, and uncles so I rarely saw them. But during Christmastime, everyone was home. We had dinners, we opened presents, we spent time with family we normally didn’t see.
It was pure joy!
Truth be told, I would spend my entire year looking forward to Christmas because of the celebration that accompanied it. And I believe God intended it to be that way. He wanted us to have these moments of sheer joy – when we could shout, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'”
God gave Israel three feasts a year to remind his people of his goodness, his faithfulness, and his commands. These feasts were like rest stops on the highway of life, pulling Israel off the road and reminding them of the things that are most important. They taught valuable lessons -things like having a greater dependence on God and finding our greatest joy in him. And they gave all of Israel an opportunity to forget the troubles of this life and live in eternity – if only for a few moments.
If an Israelite made these moments of celebration about buying sacrifices or fixing dinners they would have missed the joy of entering God’s house.
Pilgrims on the Way to Eternity
The Christian calendar – and Advent and Christmas in particular – serve much the same purpose for us, as Christians, that the three ancient festivals served for Israel. This is a time when we can put the temporal worries and cares out of our mind. It’s a time to remember the hope that we have in Christ and his Kingdom. It’s a time to celebrate the coming of Jesus – both as a newborn baby 2,000 years ago and as the crowned Messiah who is returning in glory (at a date to be determined).
Over the next few weeks, you’ll be tempted to get caught up in the cares of the season – presents to buy, dinners to make, parties to throw. But in all of the hustle and bustle, don’t miss the real purpose of Advent and Christmas.
It isn’t about buying presents. It’s about being present – with God and with his people.
After all, Jesus came the first time to meet with and die for his people.
He is coming again to be with them forever.
Come Lord Jesus.