“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
For our Advent devotional series, we are going to be exploring Jill Duffield’s Advent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through Ten Objects as the framework and guide for our preparation for Christmas. If this title sounds familiar, it is because this is the same author we enjoyed in our Lenten Bible study and Chapel Chats when we read Lent in Plain Sight. While the pastoral staff will be sharing their reflections and prayers within this framework, we invite you to consider Duffield’s book as another Advent devotional resource.
This first week of Advent will focus on the image of gates. In the passage from Deuteronomy, we hear God’s commandment to the people: love God alone with all your heart, soul, and might. In the New Testament, we hear Jesus add on the importance of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This call to love God and neighbor is at the core of our faith. In this passage from Deuteronomy, we hear how important this commandment to love is with the additional charges to keep this call on one’s heart and to teach our children the importance of loving God in the morning and in the evening. God even offers strategies on how to keep this call before us at all times by binding it to our hand and forehead and writing this charge on the doorframes of our homes and our gates. I think of this as the equivalent of writing a reminder on a sticky note that is placed on your mirror at home. You will see it every day and be reminded of its message. God is providing this instruction to lift up how important this call to love is in our daily walk with God. It serves as a guide for our focus and attention.
As we get into the season of Advent, we are going to be surrounded by the sparkle and sounds of a beautiful season. It is easy to be distracted. Our focus should be on preparing for the greatest gift, the birth of Jesus Christ into this world. The commandments to love God and our neighbors are embodied in the very existence of the Christ child. As we walk through doorways and pass through gates this season, may we remember that our first focus each day should be on loving God and our neighbors. May we walk through Advent with daily reminders of how our lives should be prioritized, with always loving God first.
Loving God, we thank You for the gift of Jesus Christ. We know that we are called to love You and to place You first in our lives, but it is easy to get distracted and place other priorities ahead of You. Help us to remember to love You, love our neighbors, love ourselves, and love Your creation throughout this day. May that love turn into action. Empower us to teach our children and the young people of our church the importance of this call to love. Amen.