An Advent reflection for Friday, December 15th by Rev. Anna Maloney
Lectionary reading for 12/15/2023: Psalm 126; Habakkuk 3:2-6; Philippians 3:12-16
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 126
Psalm 126 NIV
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
I’m not great at being in limbo. The feeling of something being unresolved or unfinished makes me want to rush as quickly as possible to get it done, move things forward, and erase that feeling of incompleteness from my day. But slowly, through the years, I’ve reluctantly learned that rushing to a resolution (as good as it feels in the moment) is not always the path to that feeling of fulfillment I crave. Sometimes God’s deepest work happens in the “in between” times. And it’s best to let things take the time they take.
At the church I serve, we are currently in an interim season– in the space between a lead pastor moving on, and a new pastor being called. As a congregation and as a staff, we are learning what it means to actively wait on God…to resist the temptation to forego the hard work of taking an honest look at ourselves, of reevaluating, of discerning God’s Spirit and call, and moving into a new season with a greater sense of clarity and health. It would be so much easier NOT to do that work, skip past the uncomfortable parts, and just fall back on “the way things used to be.” But what would we miss out on if we did? Are we willing to risk actually letting God speak into the process and bring us somewhere new?
Psalm 126 is about the “in between”. It’s a song that looks back at what God has done in the past to bring the Israelite captives back from exile in Babylon (verses 1-3), and then shifts to the present, asking God to do the work of restoring them once again (verses 4-6). One commentator describes the people of Israel as living “between memory and hope.”
We live a lot of our lives in that space too– between remembering what God has done, and hoping that God will continue to be faithful to us now, when things are once again swirling and unsettled. It pushes us into a posture of trust when we don’t yet see the outcome, of choosing to believe that God does indeed see us as we wait, and care about our current suffering. We trust that our God of love wants to bring us back to a place where we can dream again, where our mouths cannot help but sing a song of joy.
But there is tension and discomfort in the waiting. Our tears are the seeds that prepare the ground for harvest, and we pray that God will honor our tears. And sometimes, when we are bone-weary and simply don’t have the energy to hope or trust or believe, we need to lean on our community to carry our hope for us.
This Advent, may you offer your tears and your waiting as an act of hope. And may you return, carrying bundles and dreaming dreams.
Write or speak a psalm to God about your own experience of living between memory of the past and hope for the future. Tell God how it feels to not know the ending yet. Intentionally remember how God has been active in your story up to this point. Rehearse it back to God, and express your longing for God to act once again.
God, help me to trust in your slow work. Keep me present to what is true right now, and meet me in my waiting.
About the Author
Rev. Anna Maloney is a pastor and spiritual director. She and her husband live in the Twin Cities with their golden retriever pup and their 3 chickens, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy! Anna is passionate about creating safe spaces for honest questions and dialogue, and loves experiencing new forms of prayer. She is a big fan of live music, road trips, long phone calls with friends, and that cozy feeling of sitting by the fire with a hot drink in hand in the dead of Minnesota winter.