Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Third Week of Advent: Sunday

Adoration of the Shepherds
Hugo van der Goes, c. 1480

Today we enter the third week in the Advent season, the time of watching and waiting for the promised Messiah to come. Christ-followers around the world are preparing their hearts and lives to celebrate the first coming of Jesus at Christmas in the manger at Bethlehem. We are also anticipating his Second Advent, the parousia, when he shall come to put his creation to rights.

In our daily meditations, we have been taking the psalm chosen for the evening Vespers office in Phyllis Tickle's prayer book, The Divine Hours. This resource is also available online, with a wonderful tool that enables one to search time zones and pray with our brothers and sisters around the world.

Today's psalm is Psalm 63, a worship song that expresses deep longing for God to come to us. Here is the first portion of this psalm:
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Here once more we see exhibited the faith of King David. The heading invites us to read this psalm in the light of one of his wilderness exiles, while pursued by his enemies. Yet in the midst of uncertainty, fear, and stress, we read here that he feels a deeper hunger, a stronger thirst—his desire to experience the presence of God in worship. And so, even in the wilderness, King David finds a sanctuary, as he discovers that his Lord is there too, an ever present help in time of trouble.

Jesus also spent time in the wilderness and was constantly under pressure from those who opposed him. However, his Father's presence and sustaining grace was ever a comfort and help to him. He clung to God, and God's right hand upheld him.

No matter where we find ourselves geographically or situationally during Advent, we may find a place for worship. God is with us and will satisfy our hunger and thirst.

In the shadow of his wings, we may sing for joy.

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