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Song of Ascents

An Advent reflection for Wednesday, December 20th by Pastor Katherine Mayer

Lectionary reading for 12/20/23: Psalm 125; Malachi 3:16-4:6; Mark 9:9-13

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 125 


Psalm 125 NRSV

A Song of Ascents.

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,    which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,    so the Lord surrounds his people    both now and forevermore.

3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain    over the land allotted to the righteous,for then the righteous might use    their hands to do evil.

4 Lord, do good to those who are good,    to those who are upright in heart.

5 But those who turn to crooked ways    the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.


This passage comes from a group of Psalms that are known as songs of ascents.  These songs of ascent were sung by Jews as they traveled up the hill to Jerusalem.  Many Jews made this journey at least three times for the annual feasts and festivals that took place in the city on the hill.  Their journey upward was a time of reflection and prayer.  They would spend time reciting and singing these songs of ascents to remember what God had done for them but also as a prayer that He would continue to be with them, protect them, and comfort them.  Psalm 125 is a prayer for God to bless His people.  During this song they are asking God to not just protect them but to bless them.  They are praying for God to find favor with them. 

As I have sat in this passage the thing I keep coming back to is picturing hundreds if not thousands of Jewish people walking up a hill toward a city singing these words.  Singing and asking God to have favor with them.  Singing and asking God to bless them not only as His people but as people who are good.  As people “who are upright in heart”.  What a powerful picture? 

Week three of Advent focuses on joy.  A deep joy that is rooted in faith and trust.  I imagine it is a joy that the people of Israel felt as they walked up the road to Jerusalem.  As they sang the songs of ascent, I can picture the joy that must have come from them.  The joy in remembering all that God had done and would continue to do.  A joy that trusts that God would hear them and answer their song.  A joy in knowing that these were songs sung by many and not just one.  A joy that knows that they were not alone. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. 

It made me wonder what songs we would sing as we might ascend the hill toward “Jerusalem”.   Right now our “Jerusalem” is the climb toward celebrating the birth of Christ.  We have been on a road that is leading toward a celebration and feast. The beauty that comes with this journey is that we are on it together.  We are a community, like the people of Israel, going up a hill heading toward celebration.  It is a time when people from different theological perspectives can all agree to celebrate what is ahead and what is coming.  We can pause our debates for a time and come together as a community of believers from all around the country to walk toward the celebration that comes on Christmas Day.  I wonder as a community what are we singing?  What prayers are flowing from our lips in form of song?  What joy are we experiencing as we make our way towards celebrating the birth of Christ? 


As you spend a moment reflecting on the questions at the end make sure to pause and take time to let those questions sink in.  Take some time answering them.  If you feel led, write a song of ascent that your community could sing together this Advent season. 


May we remember the joy rooted in each of us this Advent season.  A joy that is grounded in faith and trust. A joy that supersedes whatever might be going on in our life at this very moment but reminds us of how worthy you, God, are of our praise.  Thank you for this time of Advent.  Thank you for the coming celebration as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. May Your joy come over us in this space like a warm blanket. We love you. 


About the Author 

Katherine Mayer is the Family Pastor at One Church in Louisville, KY.  She is originally from Northern California but has called Louisville home for seven years.  She is married with two kids. She is in the process of becoming a Spiritual Director and started seminary at North Park Seminary this fall.

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