Reflecting on the First Sunday of Advent: Two Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 124
Old Testament: Genesis 9:1-17
Epistle: Hebrews 11:32-40
Unexpected God, your advent alarms us. Wake us from drowsy worship, from the sleep that neglects love, and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. Awaken us now to your coming, and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side
—let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away;
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters (Psalm 124:1-5).
by Joan Stott
“What if?” is a question we often frighten ourselves with! “What if I had not done that or said that; I am sure my life and relationship would be better than they now are!” The people of Israel were playing “What if?” as they huddled together in their imaginations and paranoia. Experts suggest that the Psalms were written somewhere from 1200 BC to the post-Exilic period, and in that period, the people of Israel experienced many times the violent threat of invasion and subjugation to foreign and godless powers. After they had scared themselves with their “What if?” games, they remembered again God’s faithfulness and of God’s promises.
Creative pause: Do “What if?” games help or hinder your faith development?
Those “What if?” games included being abandoned by God and left to their own devises as a nation. Those fears were expressed through the imagery of fierce animals attacking and devouring them even as they hid from them; and secondly, of violent and destructive floods, which swept all before it in its fury. The “deep water” and the sea creatures that supposedly inhabited them, included “leviathan” - that mystical huge sea creature that was thought to inhabit the deeper reaches of the sea/lakes - and traditionally, were one of their most feared under-water enemies. Sailors of that time always refused to learn swim, so they could quickly drown before being viciously attacked.
Creative pause: What are your worst fears, and how does your faith react to them?
Thankfully, the people of Israel came to their senses, and remembered God’s faithfulness, and all God’s promises to them as Covenantal partners with God, even if they often forgot that liberating fact! Obviously, they had had several “close encounters”, otherwise why did the Psalmist sing: “...We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. The trap is broken, and we are free…!” However, there can be no doubt about their fervor as they also all sang: “…Our help isfrom the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.” Despite their “What if” games, they knew that their Faithful God of enduring love had always blessed their days, and could be relied upon to liberate them from their own foolishness.
Creative pause: “Our help is from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.”
PRAYER: Give us ears to hear, O God, and eyes to watch, that we may know your presence in our midst during this holy season of joy as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Read more from “The Timeless Psalms,” here.