From Hardship to Hope: A Reflection for Thursday, December 8
By Emily Wickstrom
Lectionary reading for 12/08/2022: Thursday, December 8, 2022: Psalm 146:5-10; Ruth 1:6-18; 2 Peter 3:1-10
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 146:5-10
Psalm 146:5-10, New Living Translation (NLT)
5 But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He made heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever.
7 He gives justice to the oppressed
and food to the hungry.
The Lord frees the prisoners.
8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.
The Lord loves the godly.
9 The Lord protects the foreigners among us.
He cares for the orphans and widows,
but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.
10 The Lord will reign forever.
He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.
Praise the Lord!
It seems like the world shifts on November 1 each year, and this year is not unlike others. The stores had already put out much, if not all, of their holiday gear. You can smell the cinnamon and pine all around! The holiday season is in full swing… or at least commercially it is! So the question remains: “Do you embrace the holiday season before or after Thanksgiving?” Personally, I’m team #post-thanksgiving, but I found myself needing a little Christmas even before November 25th this year.
One of my favorite markers of the season is holiday music. I love how the different seasons can engage our various senses, and I find that music helps me remain centered during the holiday season. While I can really only listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” a handful of times before it looses its magic, there are songs that stay on repeat for me, even after Christmas. One song that I never grow tired of hearing is “O Holy Night.” The song is so calming to me, and the lyrics are like balm to my soul,
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.
These lyrics came to mind as I sat with today’s passage in Psalm 146. The word hope in both the passage and the song caught my attention,
“But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the
Lord their God,”
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”
As both the Psalm and the song allude, our world is filled with things that can cause us to lose hope. Oppression, hunger, and imprisonment continue to disproportionally affect our Black and Brown siblings. We are all held captive by things that imprision us - illness, pain, suffering, grief, systemic injustice… the list could go on and on.
The Psalm and the song offer us a framework to help us endure these times of hardship:
to hope in the Lord. I appreciate that the psalmist doesn’t ignore or gloss over the injustices, but names them and shows what God does in the midst of them. For when we hope in the Lord, we can be reminded that:
God is the Creator over all things and is a promise keeper (v. 6);
God gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry (v. 7);
God gives sight to the blind and lifts up those who are weighed down (v. 8);
God protects the foreigners and cares for the orphans and widows (v. 9).
What a thrill of hope - and the weary world rejoices!
What are some things that are making you weary or are weighing you down? Where do you feel that heaviness in your body? Reflect on these in a way that is meaningful to you (i.e. journaling, creating something, processing outloud, etc.).
After you have reflected on these areas, invite God to sit in that space with you. How does it feel to have God in that space? Where can you see God at work in the midst of that weariness and heaviness? Where do you find your thrill of hope?
God, thank you for being true to Your Word - a promise keeper. We try to hold fast to that, especially in a weary world that is filled with so much darkness, so much injustice. Help us carry and lift up the things that are weighing us down. We praise You, for we know that we can put our hope in the one who brings light and life, who is a defender and a protector of the oppressed and most vulnerable. Help us to cling to the hope only You can offer - one that brings love, joy, peace, and everlasting life. Amen.
About the Author
Emily, a born-and-raised Midwesterner, now serves in a co-vocational role in Sacramento, CA, both as an associate pastor at Common Ground Church and as a hospital chaplain student at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Emily is passionate about work surrounding justice and equity, believing they are integral parts of the Gospel. Some of her favorite things include: listening to people’s stories, being with her husband Ben and their dog Rocky, and spending time in and around water (always missing Lake Michigan). You can follow along with her life, ministry, and everything in between on her Instagram (@emily.wickstrom).