“I was glad when they said to me,

‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

Psalm 122:1

The anticipation in these verses is palpable. You can feel the great joy, not only of David but also of his people. They remind me of my sister and me as children, waking up our parents (bright and early!) on Christmas morning in our bounding excitement to see what treasures awaited us under the tree.

Perhaps it was the fact that the Israelites only went to the temple and Jerusalem a few times out of the year that made these trips so deeply cherished. It does often seem like those things we do very rarely (but routinely) are some of the activities and celebrations we enjoy the most because they happen so infrequently.

I don’t know about you, though; sometimes, for me, tradition and routine can also allow space for truly special things to lose their significance, and I can so easily let the beauty of a moment slip past me unawares. For most of my life, going to the house of the LORD with fellow believers was a weekly, consistent activity that became so entrenched in my routine that I just took it for granted.

However, this is where I can feel genuine gratitude for what the pandemic has done for the body of Christ, and for me. It helped me get a glimpse of what the Israelites’ joy could feel like. While for some, returning to in-person church might still make them feel apprehensive (and understandably so), I think for many, coming back to “normal” church was just pure delight.

Even in the midst of some of my qualms when I returned, that first Sunday back in the Worship Center was one of the most joyous and exciting Sunday services I can remember. The joy I felt there, like that found in this psalm, was palpable. You could feel the gladness of those in the room, and I left refreshed and encouraged in ways I didn’t even realize I had desperately missed or needed.

Despite the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, I am grateful for the way the past year of online church (even outdoor church!) allowed me to appreciate the significance and transformational value of being in God’s presence with those who love Him. Now I feel like I can say with the Israelites (exclamation point and all), “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

Ashley Carr

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