An Advent Journey: When God Became Small – Day Five

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Psalm 79, NLT 

O God, your land has been conquered by the heathen nations. Your Temple is defiled, and Jerusalem is a heap of ruins. 

The bodies of your people lie exposed—food for birds and animals. The enemy has butchered the entire population of Jerusalem; blood has flowed like water.

No one is left even to bury them. The nations all around us scoff. They heap contempt on us.

O Jehovah, how long will you be angry with us? Forever? Will your jealousy burn till every hope is gone? 

Pour out your wrath upon the godless nations—not on us—on kingdoms that refuse to pray, that will not call upon your name! 

For they have destroyed your people Israel, invading every home. 

Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins!

Let your tenderhearted mercies meet our needs, for we are brought low to the dust. Help us, God of our salvation!

Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins. 

Why should the heathen nations be allowed to scoff, “Where is their God?”

Publicly avenge this slaughter of your people! Listen to the sighing of the prisoners and those condemned to die.

Demonstrate the greatness of your power by saving them. O Lord, take sevenfold vengeance on these nations scorning you.

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and forever, praising your greatness from generation to generation 

Like it or not, lament is a part of life. A good part, actually, because lament gives us words for the hard times. And let’s be honest here — Advent and Christmas are hard times for lots of us.

Advent makes room for lament. You’ll find it in many of the daily readings and you surely find it in the music of Advent — almost all of which is written in a minor key. Waiting is hard work, yet it is essential work, too. And that’s why the church designed these specific seasons of Advent and Lent, each of them leading up to our two great feasts, Christmas and Easter. Because while we’re waiting, we need space for the sad songs. When we feast, then we can break out the major key and the ‘alleluia.’

And when we are in the midst of a lament, it is critically important to remember, as the psalmist has done here, that God is tenderhearted. Yes, we get pictures of an angry, vengeful God in scripture. But usually, those pictures are the interpretive work of the authors of that particular portion of scripture. The underlying truth, the one we build our hope and our faith on is this one: God is for us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God is for us and by necessity, that means that tenderheartedness takes the lead. 

Thank you for that tender heart, O God of the universe. Thank you that despite all that we mess up, you are available to us, you walk with us, you encourage and comfort us, and always, always — you love us.

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Comments

  1. My denomination does not observe Advent. Fortunately I have friends like you who help keep me from sinking daily into the muck and midst of Christmas USA style.

  2. Oh, yes! Praise God he is FOR us! And as if that is not enough, our God, Emmanuel, is WITH us–24/7–especially close during times of lament. (I wonder what other prepositions we could slip into that spot after “is” and before “us?” Even with just two, I am uplifted.!)

    Wise advice in this post, Diana, to make room for lament during Advent.

  3. Thank you for this, Diana. Yes, there is a place for lament in this season. I’m glad tenderhearted you are reminding us of that and of our tenderhearted God.

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