The psalmist knows the goodness of God in the world. God has led the people and cared for them as a shepherd cares for the sheep. But the people have fallen on hard times. Struggles mounting in the Northern Kingdom bring tears and sorrow. The community prays, laments loss, and offers petition. The light has gone out of their world. God, are you listening? A worshipful community prays and hopes the radiance of God will light the way. They speak a liturgical prayer: “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
When life turns on us, when losses mount up and tears fall down, we may struggle to find hope, to know God with us. Consolation is illusive. Lament consumes us. Today we see people, whole communities, whose hope is tested. On every continent, in every country, on every street, hearts break and tears flow down with blood. Darkness permeates our world. Yet in this holy season, the psalmist leads us: “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
Give ear to your people, O God. Come close. Come in person if you can. Come to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, London, Moscow and Mosul, to Raleigh and to everywhere in between. In ancient words and prayers of the faithful, restore your people. Let your light shine, that we may be saved.
God, are you listening? If that is the question, God’s answer is on the horizon in the birth of a child, one who will fulfill a promise that justice will reign and a people will be restored. Lament and hope travel together in this psalm. Hurt and hope journey together in the world. However bad our circumstances, dawn will rise. Light will shine forth and God will be with us. Come, O come, Emmanuel.
Shine forth, O God, that we may see the light of your presence and know your salvation. Amen.
Isaiah is sent to the king of Judah to declare a prophecy of a future birth through a virgin. The boy will be called Immanuel, “God is with us.” The psalmist cries out to God asking for an end to the suffering of the people. He believes that this will occur through a “son of man,” an expression that Jesus later uses to describe himself. Paul’s opening to Romans roots the gospel in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus comes from the line of David and fulfills the things foretold. To understand Jesus, we must understand the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew recounts the visitation of an angel to Joseph to tell him of the coming birth of a son. Matthew interprets this birth as a fulfillment of this week’s reading from Isaiah 7.
Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How does Isaiah’s prophecy continue to speak to you today? How do you hope for Christ’s coming?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. Recall a time when you have relied on hope for God’s restoration.
Read Romans 1:1-7. What would it mean to add “servanthood” to your list of life goals?
Read Matthew 1:18-25. How is your life different for having listened to God’s call?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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