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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

O Lord, how shall I meet you,
how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy,
a lamp within my breast,
to do in spirit lowly
all that may please you best.

Paul Gerhardt’s “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”
(tune: Vallet Will Ich Dir Geben)
trans. Catherine Winkworth et. al.
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

When I was growing up, it was easy to define Advent as a time of preparation, a path leading to the birth of Jesus. We selected and wrapped gifts for family and friends. We rehearsed for the Advent pageant that we would perform at our church on Christmas Eve. We bought Advent calendars, opening one square each day to reveal a piece of religious-themed chocolate.

Of course, sometimes the anticipation became so great that it was tempting to live less in the present and skip ahead to the future, to Christmas itself. I would prowl around the basement, trying to detect gifts that my parents had not yet wrapped. An angel or a tiny shepherd would grow agitated and burst into tears during a long Advent pageant rehearsal. My sister (or me, I’m ashamed to say) would tear open an Advent calendar, all of the chocolates falling to the floor.

As an adult, I’m still tempted to rush Advent in favor of that day of warmth and celebration. But this hymn reminds us that in order to prepare for this day, for the arrival of this mighty God that comes to us in the form of a deceptively fragile child, we must “cultivate” the hope, the “lamp” within our hearts. Only then can we be fully ready for God’s Son.

Lord, help us to slow down and keep our lamps burning throughout Advent. Amen.

Written by Katie MacKendrick, Editorial Assistant

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