A Christmas reflection for Thursday, January 4th by Riane McConnell
Lectionary reading for 01/04/2024: Psalm 110; Proverbs 3:1-12; James 4:11-17Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 110
Psalm 110: 1−7 (New International Version)
“The Lord says, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!’ Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ The LORD is at your right hand, he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook along the way; and so he will lift his head high.”
For many reasons the Old Testament is often ignored in our churches. “It’s confusing. I don’t get what it means. Why is God always angry?” These questions and statements echo throughout many churches. Then, when the Old Testament does creep into our lectionary, we are confronted by texts that confirm our skeptical thoughts―God is simply wrathful in the Old Testament! If we cannot ignore these texts, what do we do with them? Is there something about God we have yet to learn?
Psalm 110 can seem confusing, to say the least; not only is it confusing in ecclesial circles, but scholars have scratched their heads, too. So, let’s start with a brief introduction…
Psalm 110 is a royal psalm that deals with kingship and is immersed with warrior imagery (v. 1−3, 5−7), which hardly seems applicable to our church contexts (let alone advent). The Lord favors a king that he will put at his right hand (v. 1). This king will rule over his enemies with a large army. Not only will the Lord grant victory for his warrior king, but then God will sit at the king’s right hand (v. 5). The psalm ends with God’s judgment over the nations and triumph over rulers of the earth (v. 6).
So, what is a psalm about a warrior king doing in our lectionary? The psalmist goes out of his way to show how the Lord will raise up this king. Then upon raising up this king, God showers him with success; however, it’s not the king’s success that is the focus―rather―God. The psalmist shows that even when God’s appointed people succeed, it is God’s strength and judgment that endure. The psalm ends by describing God’s character: just, powerful, and a hand of provision.
One of the many beautiful parts of Advent is the innate challenge it brings to our daily life: slow down, wait, and be present. In a world that is hurting, scarred by war, grieving what has passed, and in constant transition, we have a God who is just, powerful, and raising up provisions. The challenge this Advent season is to sit in the hard things and trust in God’s character amid every hard thing. God, who has raised up armies, kings, and crushed nations is the God that knows our heart and hears our cries. What things in your life need to sit in the assurance of God’s justice? What things need to be reminded of God’s power? And, what things might we ask for God’s provision?
Almighty God,Your constant provision and guidance is a source of comfort during this season. No matter what surrounds us, no matter what enemies rise, you are there to judge and keep us under your wing of protection. During a season that can seem full of grief, may your constant presence and power allow our anxieties to be put to rest. May we be reminded that you are the final word and ultimate judge. Take us into your right hand and guard our hearts.In your powerful name,Amen.
About the Author
Riane McConnell is currently based in St. Andrews, Scotland. She is a PhD student working towards her doctorate in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Also, Riane is in her second year serving as a remote-lecturer at North Park University. She is passionate about the Old Testament and finding creative ways to bring light and meaning to these often forgotten texts in the classroom and church. Riane’s current research is expounding upon the intersectionality of women and law in Genesis.