Midweek Advent Devotional
Each week during Advent, Pastor Chris will share the Psalm for the previous Sunday and reflect on it using themes of Advent for each week:
Advent Week 1: November 30
I was glad when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
At the end of our time in Jerusalem, our tour guide said to us, “See you next year in Jerusalem!” It is something many in Israel and those of the Jewish faith say. It is said at the end of at the Passover Seder and the end of Yom Kippur. Although I didn’t expect or have plans to return to Jerusalem the next year, there was a gift of hope in that salutation. (It was the fall of 2019 so the next year there would be no travel to Jerusalem or anywhere for that matter!) “See you next year in Jerusalem!” is all about keeping hope and realizing hope.
Psalm 122 would have been recited or sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem. Imagine it as a song you would sing on your way to meet family at your favorite vacation spot with all the expectation of what can happen when you get there.
The hope described is not hope for the city, the gates, the walls, the towers, the throne, the house of David, or any object. The hope is in God. Psalm 122 recognizes the individual (“I was glad,” “I will say,” “I will seek”) with the understanding of the relationship of the larger group, others, and God. It is hope for all. (“Our feet are standing,” “For the sake of my relatives and friends,” “For the sake of the House of the Lord.”) The hope is in God’s care for us and all creation.
This first week of Advent we remember and anticipate the hope of God revealed in and through all creation for today, tomorrow, and all time.
May you find hope,
Advent Week 2: December 7
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king's son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
What is your definition of PEACE? Is it an absence of war? Perhaps it is a situation where you are not in conflict with anyone and no one around you is fighting with anyone else. It is interesting how conflict transfers between us and those around us even when it is not our own.
Reflecting on Psalm 72, I wonder why the Psalmist petitions God on behalf of the King. Why not petition for their own peace or the peace of the people? With Christ the King Sunday just a few weeks ago, why don’t they pray directly to God as their king?
We don’t relate to kings and kingdoms as done at the time of Solomon, the king my Bible attributes Psalm 72 to. We do pray for the righteousness and justice of our leaders. However I wonder if we attribute the character and righteousness of our leaders affecting us as directly as the psalmist suggests. It seems praying for the King to have the righteousness and justice of God would benefit all the people, the prosperous and the needy alike and would mean justice and peace for all subject to the king.
“In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound,” the prayer asks. It sings of the mountains and the hills, the sun and the moon, the rain and the grass. The Psalm urges for a peace so full that the King, the blades of grass and everyone in between would experience and contribute to it. Shalom is the Hebrew word for this complete peace. This peace, the psalmist recognizes is only from God and verses 18 and 19 acknowledge.
May we watch and wait for this peace which has come, is coming and will come again.
May you find peace,
Advent Week 3: December 14
Psalm 146: 5-10
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD!
The NRSV translates the first word in Psalm 146:5 as “happy”. Other translations use the word
“blessed”. Either is fine however “happy” seems more relatable to me. “Happy are those whose
help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is the Lord their God.”
Happiness is something we can achieve. The Declaration of Independence mentions certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We pursue
happiness which is good. Is joy the same thing? Isn’t joy more than happiness? Isn’t joy
Joy comes to us unexpectedly. We might experience joy but can’t pursue joy for ourselves.
Psalm 146 sings of all that God has done (vs 5-6), does (7-9), and will do (10).
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Happiness depends on apparent circumstances, but joy runs deeper. Is the
experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and nothing, sickness, failure,
emotional distress, oppression, war or even death can take that love away.”
It is not possible for us to make our way to God. Instead, God makes God’s way to us. We watch
and wait for God and God does come like the dawn. We watch and wait, and it will rise. We wait
and watch with expectation for Immanuel, God with us. The same is true of joy. It comes to us
unexpectedly, and in moments we do not expect, even amid despair. Joy can be experienced even
when we are oppressed, hungry, in prison (like John the Baptist), when we are unable to see or
understand what God is up to. When we least expect it, we are surprised by joy!
May we watch and wait for joy which has come, is coming, and will come again.
May joy find you,
Advent Week 4: December 21
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord GOD of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Have you ever wondered about God’s love for you? Have you ever doubted it? Perhaps you have
felt this way when grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe when you worked hard for something
only to watch it slip away. Then there are times when relationships end, or friendship changes.
Experiencing loss is part of life. God promises to never stop loving us. Even so, we sometimes
wonder if that is true.
Psalm 80 suggests the writer wondered about God’s love for them and their people. Verses 4-6
wonder how long God will be angry with their prayers and suggests God feeds and waters them
with tears. It insinuates God is responsible for their scorn and the reason they are the laughingstock
of their neighbors. Have they lost faith? Are there times we do too? Perhaps.
Even so, that this Psalm was written, acknowledges a hope that they would be restored, and be
saved. Three times it begs, “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”.
Think of the look on a person’s face when seeing someone they love. Imagine a young person
when that new crush walks by. Envision a mother looking at her newborn child for the first time.
Think of a grandfather beaming when seeing a grandchild. It’s hard to imagine or know God’s
face. Still, our experiences of one another shape our experience of God and God’s love for us. A
love that is so strong for us it has no time to be angry or disappointed in us.
May we watch and wait for the love which has come, is coming, and will come again.
May you find love,