The Ascent

1 Advent

Isa. 2:1-5Ps. 122Rom. 13:11-14Matt. 24:36-44

“About that day and hour no one knows … but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). It is a day like other days spent in the normal business of eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. And if in the course of many days the flesh is given to every itching desire, the days will seem heavy, plodding, erratic, and oppressive, without purpose. Another day. Another day. A death march, really; a slow burnout toward vast emptiness. Something like this must be in the mind of that young person about whom I often read, who, tortured by the mind’s suffering, strikes a fatal blow to his or her own life.

Contemplating the brevity of life has its place, but loving death is the deadly sickness of those asleep to life’s wonder. Boredom is a lifeless rest without refreshment. Wake up! Keep awake! “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep” (Rom. 13:11). Christ wakes you, pounding with explosive power against the crossed bars of Hades. Christ raises you, forgives you, and clothes you with light and grace. Christ has come and is coming and will come, and since you do not know the day of his appearing, expect it always. The day is near. Get up, look up, and behold the wonder of the Lord and the Lord’s Day. This is not just another day. It is new and fresh and sparkling, it is the evolving earth and the sweeping sky, beauties unimaginable at every turn. Tear off the garments of night, and wear the light armor of day, living honorably among the sons and daughters of God. As we walk with opened eyes and unstopped ears and with legs like the gazelle, the world opens and speaks. One day tells its tale to another. One night imparts knowledge to another.

Since the Lord is coming, let us go where the Lord will arrive. And yet we know that the Lord has arrived, his appearing announcing that he will ever appear: obscurely and truly in the Spirit, dramatically and conclusively at the close of the age. The Lord is coming, so let us go where he will arrive. The Lord Jesus is the Son of the Living God, the King of Glory, the Sun of Righteousness, the Author of Life. He is no less a great mountain, the highest of the mountains. He speaks: “Come to me. Ascend. Climb. Shape your swords into walking sticks and make pickaxes from your bloody spears. Stream with all the nations up the highest mountain. Go with God to God. Rest now and then, but not for long. Press on. Go to the Lord of life.” Hear the Word. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord” (Isa. 2:3)! “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). “Come, labor on. Who dares stand idle” (Hymnal, 541).

Step by step, under the burden of daily obligations delivered by the hand of providence, we yet go up and up to the mountain of God. And each step is itself a summit. We are there and we are going there. Christ is in us fully, and yet there is more that he will teach, and new paths he will show. We press on with effort fueled by the high-efficiency food of grace. We are going light, ultralight. A rhythm runs through the body and makes the ascent an exuberant joy.

Stand now at the summit, your feet on the bedrock of Christ. The world is yours.

Look It Up
Read Ps. 122. Peace and quietness.

Think About It
“We need nothing but open eyes to be ravished like the Cherubims” (Thomas Traherne, “First Century,” 37 in Centuries of Meditations).

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