An Advent Reflection for Saturday, December 18th by Rev. Denise McKinney

Lectionary reading for 12/18/2021: Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 66:7-11; Luke 13:31-35

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 80:1-7


Read


Psalm 80:1-7 MSG

Listen, Shepherd, Israel’s Shepherd—

get all your Joseph sheep together.

Throw beams of light

from your dazzling throne

So Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh

can see where they’re going.

Get out of bed—you’ve slept long enough!

Come on the run before it’s too late.

God, come back!

Smile your blessing smile:

That will be our salvation.

God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,

how long will you smolder like a sleeping volcano

while your people call for fire and brimstone?

You put us on a diet of tears,

bucket after bucket of salty tears to drink.

You make us look ridiculous to our friends;

our enemies poke fun day after day.

God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!

Smile your blessing smile:

That will be our salvation.


Reflect


I’ve been watching a Netflix show called Maid. It’s a limited series about a young woman named Alex with a preschool daughter, who is trying to escape an abusive relationship. She succeeds for a while. Then when both she and her boyfriend seem to be doing much better, there is a glimmer of hope and she falls back into the relationship. But it’s only a matter of time before he reverts to the same alcohol addiction that leads to controlling behavior and verbal abuse complimented with glass objects thrown at her in violent rages. The entire time she is trying to escape this cycle of abuse, she works as a maid cleaning the homes of people who have so much more than her and who regularly treat her with contempt.


Alex’s life is a diet of tears, with bucket after bucket of sadness and rejection. Her mom is an unstable, sometimes homeless artist who suffers from bipolar disorder. Her father claims to have found Jesus with his new family, but has never owned up to the abuse he inflicted on Alex as a child. Each time Alex seems to get a little aheadnsomething else falls apart for her and her daughter.


You might think this is the saddest of stories—and it is a sad story. But I am watching it because it is a redemption story too. It is a story of someone who is still calling out for love and hope and goodness to come back into her life, or maybe to show up for the first time. It is the story of a woman who believes that salvation from this very difficult, very painful life is possible, even though her whole life up until now might have convinced her otherwise. And she is not waiting around for it to happen to her. She is insistent, unrelenting, not taking “no” or “give up” for an answer. She is reaching for any person or opportunity that can help make things right in her broken life.


Her story resonates with me––not because I share any of her struggles––I don’t. But I do know what my diet of tears has been the last 18 to 20 months. I bet we all could line up buckets after bucket of our own struggles, each with our name written in sharpie on the side.


I actually misread this Psalm the first time. My ADHD brain thought it started with God talking to his people about listening to him and getting out of bed to take action. But it is the Psalm writer speaking frankly to God. The writer is calling out for love and hope and goodness to come back into his broken world and he’s rather insistent about it. He doesn’t seem to be asking politely. Here are the imperatives, declarations and questions that jump off the page:


Listen—throw beams of light—get out of bed—come before it’s too late—come back—smile your blessing smile—how long will you smolder?—You make us look ridiculous—come back—smile your blessing smile.


Something about the tone of this Psalm is comforting. In a season of the world as well as in your life and mine, when there is so much uncertainty, challenge and trauma still smoldering, it’s nice to know we can be rather insistent with God that he come and make things right.


Respond

I encourage you to read Psalm 80:1-7 out loud to yourself several times. What phrases jump out at you? Where do you find yourself in this cry for help? If there was a bucket of salty tears with your name on it, what sadness has filled that bucket? And what call to action do you have for God? Ask your question. I daresay make your demand. Don’t be afraid to insist that he make things right.


Rest

Redeemer God, Listen to my sorrow and throw beams of your saving light into the darkness.

Amen


About the Author

Denise McKinney lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she leads The Well, a dinner church planted in 2020. She’s also a writer, musician and fairly slow half-marathoner! Denise shares married life and friendship with hubby Gary, a pharmacist and fast marathoner! She is also mom to Lanie and Garrison who have taught her more on the faith journey than anyone or anything. You can find more of Denise’s storytelling and music at denisemckinney.com, and learn about The Well’s sacred life around shared meals at thewelltulsa.org.



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