Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Psalm 80:1-7; Advent Service One; December 4, 2019;

Psalm 80:1-7; Advent Service One; December 4, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:1–7, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nobody wants to hear a lament. After all this is Advent. Outside of the church it’s called the Christmas season. It’s the season where we celebrate preparing to celebrate. We plan parties, wrap packages, decorate our homes, and in general try to get in the joyful “Christmas spirit”. A lament, that is a complaint, doesn’t seem to fit. Nobody really wants to hear about your Christmas blues. So we wrap it up in a box, tape it shut and seal it with a big bow. We go back to our appetizers, our shallow conversations, and our plastic Christmas trees, pretending to be happy all the time till Christmas comes.
But Psalm 80 is a lament. It’s the Psalm assigned for the First Sunday in Advent. It’s making a request. Go to the closet, get the package, tear off the paper and open it up. It’s not going to let us save the lament for a more convenient time. Here is Psalm 80 telling us that the lament has a part in Advent.
The Psalm is a complaint to God. God’s people of the northern kingdom of Israel were attacked and decimated by the Assyrians (circa 722BC). The king was thrown into prison. The people were “eating the bread of tears.” And God was angry with their prayers. They were empty and grieving over the results of their sinful rejection of God. The Psalm calls on God to act: “Restore us.”  “Make your face shine upon us.”
The lament belongs in Advent lest we forget why we are here. The world is abuzz with sin. It is played out before our eyes in news and entertainment. Disease is everywhere. Anger and hatred flood the planet. People use their power for their own benefit. Nations war against each other. Religions vie for followers to carry out their utopian ideals. Our own sin is always before us. It breaks all that we have and leaves our relationships in tatters. And sin has its fullest expression in death. We cannot live in this sinful and broken world and be happy all the time. Preparation for a celebration has a way of bringing to remembrance the wages of sin. We call it the “Christmas blues”, the “empty chair at the table”, and the “why can’t I catch the Christmas spirit”.
Psalm 80 speaks for us. It places God’s Word on our lips in the form of a prayer, from Him to us and back to Him. It does not let God go quietly into the Christmas celebration as if that was enough: “Save us.” It does not settle for the soft glow of Christmas lights, but instead pleads for God’s benediction: “Make your face shine upon us.” It pleads with God to not be a God who is far off but a God who is near, a shepherd. One who seeks out his sheep in trouble and saves them. One who restores them to the flock. One who is no longer angry with straying sheep and forgives and listens again to their prayers.
The question we want answered is: How long until you come to save us? How long will we suffer the pain of separation from our loved ones? How long will the world war against us? How long must we feel the effects of our own sin? Even now with the knowledge of salvation through the cross and resurrection of Christ, we still wonder how long until the skies open up to reveal Jesus returning. We long for the fullest and final expression of what He has already done. We have forgiveness, life and salvation through faith in all that He has done. We have Word and Water, Bread and Wine, God’s promises of forgiveness applied directly to us. All of it promising more on his return. And until He returns, we lament. We cry out. “Restore us, save us, make your face shine upon us.”
Psalm 80 invites us to bring out the box from the back shelf, gently dust it off, open up the lament, and let God have it. And then we turn to Jesus and see that He promises to return to return and restore and forgive. We were never meant to warehouse those laments; we were meant to take them to God who promises He will save us. It is the advent prayer, “Come Lord Jesus! Amen”.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: