The psalmist voices a joyful, hopeful poetic account of the community’s life in God. But it’s written in a curious structure. It’s hard to tell what is past, what is present, and what is a hoped-for future. We can’t really tell what’s a proclamation of fact and what’s a proclamation of faith. Throughout the passage, the author moves from recounting to petition to proclaiming the good news of what God will do. Remarkably, that’s exactly what Advent does, as well.
The season of Advent reminds us that joy is tied up in longing, belief, waiting, and anticipation. Joy is born in the fullness of life’s brokenness, as well as in the fullness of God’s promise. We cry out for God even as we proclaim God’s nearness; we acknowledge our pain even as we name our blessings and as we ask for more.
Psalm 126 reflects a beautiful movement from recollection to petition to anticipation, sometimes all in the same breath. And perhaps that’s an appropriate characterization of a faithful life. Life is seldom stagnant and our minds are seldom still; we live in a swirl of memory and anticipation, anxiety and hope. The psalmist shows us that in the swirl of remembering, rejoicing, and praying for more, we can abandon ourselves to the hope and joy of God who stands beyond the constraints of time. And as we do so, we become bearers of the good news to the world—proclaiming simultaneously what God has done and what God will do, even as we cry out for God’s presence and action to join our kingdom work here and now.
God, help me to step into the wonder of life in you. Help me see the places where I can faithfully tell of your goodness, proclaim your hope, and stand with others in prayer. May I learn to let go of my time line and expectations in order to step into your joy that knows no bounds. Amen.
In Isaiah 61, the Anointed One declares a message of liberation. Justice, righteousness, and praise will blossom as new shoots of growth in the garden of the Lord. Psalm 126 remembers a time in the past when God’s mercy broke forth in an unparalleled manner. The character of the community and of the individual members will be transformed. The First Thessalonians text voices a yearning for the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” yet the promise of the Second Advent has kindled great hope and gladness in the heart of the Christian community. The reading from the Gospel of John also raises the issue of the mood of expectancy that characterizes the period of time between promise and fulfillment.
• Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. If “the spirit of the Lord GOD is upon” you, what does that mean for the way you live day by day?
• Read Psalm 126. Have you experienced joy in a time of brokenness? How do you understand the seeming contradictions?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Which of the disciplines Paul speaks of in verses 16-22 do you faithfully practice? Which might you cultivate further?
• Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. John not only knows his role; he knows who he is not: the Messiah. In this time of Advent waiting, consider who you are not. How does that consideration simplify your life? What may you release?
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