Fling Wide the Door

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Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus Christ,

I love Advent—the expectation that builds each week as we approach the congregation’s celebration of Christmas; the scripture texts which lift up the theme of hope as we wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promise to return; the Advent hymns which point us toward this hope of Christ’s second Advent.

Take the first verse of the closing hymn from this past Sunday’s 10:45 a.m. worship:

“Fling wide the door, unbar the gate;

the king of glory comes in state;

the Lord of lords and King of kings,

the Savior of the world who brings

His great salvation to the earth.

So raise a shout of holy mirth

and praise our God and Lord,

Creator, Spirit, Word.”

Text of “Fling Wide the Door” by Georg Weissel; translated by Gracia Grindal is © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE # A-735977. All Rights Reserved.

I love the image of a city—gates barred, doors shut to keep out those who would harm or harass it—being commanded, “Fling wide the door, unbar the gate.” The time for fear has ended. The King has come. He comes “in state;” that is, in all His glory, with power. And how will He use that power? To bring salvation to the earth.

Then comes the command to “raise a shout of holy mirth.” I love that line. How often do you have occasion to say the word “mirth,” let alone sing it? For me the word conjures up an image of uncontainable joy. Merriam-Webster defines mirth as “gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter.” The city which formerly had the doors shut and locked for fear now lets loose in celebration.

I cannot help but think of the disciples on Easter evening, who for fear were locked in a room lest they face the same fate as their Master and Lord. But then the risen Lord Jesus stands among them, speaks His word of peace, and shows them His hands and side which still bore the marks of His crucifixion just days earlier. “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20).

Advent is the season of hope. It is a hope inspired by the witness of the apostles who saw Jesus ascend to heaven and heard the word of the angel messengers that Jesus will come again (Acts 1:11). It is a promise Jesus Himself gave in the night in which He was betrayed:

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Believe in God, believe also in me. 

2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If it were not so,

would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come again and will take you to myself,

so that where I am,

there you may be also.”

(John 14:1-3)

What hope these words inspire! It is no coincidence that these words are so often read at Christian funerals. Our lives are not marked with endless mirth. There is much that would threaten to trouble our hearts; especially when we are gathered at the grave of our loved ones. Yet, because Jesus lives—because He conquered the grave!—we have reason to hope. His Word holds us secure and gives us reason to hold out for a coming time of peace and joy and, dare I say, mirth unending.

Here, in time, we catch just glimpses of what we will experience in full in eternity: encouraging reminders of God’s promises delivered by a faithful friend; receiving the Lord’s Supper—a foretaste of the feast to come; words of a hymn that fill us with hope when our circumstances would otherwise have us floundering. May your Advent be filled with such moments, even as we wait with patience the day when we can fling wide the doors and welcome our King; for He is coming.

The Lord be with you.

Pastor Mike

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