Lectionary reading for 12/1/2021: Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31; Luke 11:29-32
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 90
Psalm 90.1-17 NLT
A prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Why is it that time seems more precious and yet more fleeting when we can hear every second passing by? When I don’t pay attention to the seconds of the clock, sometimes I am amazed at how much I can accomplish in even a brief window of time. Ten minutes to clean the bathroom? Zip. Zoop. Done. But ten to twelve minutes for my frozen pizza to cook? Those same minutes last an eternity.
Advent means “coming.” During that time we prepare ourselves (sometimes both literally and figuratively) as if we were preparing for company. Advent is an opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ coming. But as we prepare, we are also aware how long we have been waiting. “How long, O Lord?” How long will injustice seem to rule our land? How long will we wait for the flip flop of power and humbleness that both Hannah and Mary describe in their songs (1 Samuel 2.1-10; Luke 1.46-55)?
Psalm 90 takes us back to the time when Israel was not yet a nation in the Promised Land. A time with no Temple and no King. A time when it was easy for Israel to question their identity. But the Psalm also falls in the Book of Psalms when the community questions the fall of Jerusalem. Psalm 90 gives us a window into three time periods: the time of Moses, the time after the fall of Jerusalem, and our time of waiting for Jesus’ arrival.
Even in the midst of uncertainty which can create a sense of instability, the Psalm expresses that God alone provides help and refuge. If we want to find stability in the midst of turmoil or despair, we find it in God alone. God is like our nest: a safe place to shelter when we really need rest.
At the same time, we find perspective when we turn to God. “Teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” How do we measure the minutes we have been given? How do we make good use of the time while we wait for Jesus’ to come? Will the seconds tick by with unbearable slowness? Or will we look back at the end of a day at all we were able to accomplish?
As we prepare for both the celebration of Christmas and for the coming of our Savior, we can ask God to order our days. To see both the value of the day, and the passing of the time that brings us ever closer to the fulfillment of the kingdom here on the earth, and the restoration of God’s own creation.
Set a timer for one minute (or use a breathing app if you have one). Pay attention to each breath for that single minute. What happens in your body when you take that minute to focus on each breath? What happens in your mind and in your heart? Open your hands to God, and ask God to give you an image or a promise of wisdom for today.
God, along with Mary and Hannah, we long for injustice to be overturned, for the humble to be raised up and honored. Teach us to number our days. Show us how we can fill up each day with the work that you give us and the rest that you grant us.
About the Author
Melanie Myatt lives in Chicago, Illinois. She is a Writer, Teacher, Mom, Preacher, Spiritual Director, Learner, and Chaplain Resident in no particular order. She is currently journeying through 1 Samuel if you would like to join her. Though she is hunkered down for the winter, she is dreaming, not of a white Christmas, but of sunny days sitting on the beach along Lake Michigan.