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Repentance and Healing

An Advent reflection for Friday, December 8th by Kendall Smith


Lectionary reading for December 8, 2023: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Acts 11:19-26

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13


Read

Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13 New Living Translation

Lord, you poured out blessings on your land!

You restored the fortunes of Israel.


You forgave the guilt of your people—

yes, you covered all their sins.

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.

Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!

Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven.

Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.

Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.

Reflect


I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the most challenging emotions to handle is regret. It’s that feeling that I’ve done something wrong, or I’ve hurt someone, or even, I missed the boat on that opportunity. As I’m writing this, I am dealing with some flashbacks of things I regret. Normally, I try every way I can to push those aside and not face those hard-to-handle emotions. They sit, like a pit in my stomach, reminding me of their presence.


On the morning of my writing this, I took time to open up and confess them to God. God, I am so sorry. I regret not doing more. I wish I could have a redo. Forgive me! Those are the words I am so reluctant to mutter…and yet. Even as I pray those words and release those difficult emotions, I feel wrapped in the Peace of Christ. There is forgiveness. There is reconciliation. There will be more opportunities to trust God’s better way. The knot in my stomach abates, and I am able to move forward again.


Psalm 85 is a prayer of repentance. It is a witness to the persistent love and mercy of God. It is a return–even after wrongdoing–to the world where Creation is once again thriving in its original purpose: promoting righteousness and faithfulness over the whole earth.


I am always struck by how timely our Advent celebration is in the Northern Hemisphere. It coincides with the walk towards deep winter darkness, where our days are short and our nights are long. The colorful beauty and bounty of spring, summer, and autumn have fallen into cold, lifeless remnants of what was thriving just a few months prior. We see and feel the emptiness as we approach Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. This Psalm is a timely reminder that repentance and confession (particularly in verses 3-7) are necessary for the reconciliation and healing that the rest of the Psalm describes. We can't have one without the other.


As we move from Advent to celebrating Christ’s incarnation, we proclaim the seemingly impossible reality that,


“Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!

Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven.

Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.

Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.”


Yes, Lord! May it be so!


Respond


Pay attention to your body today. Take a few moments to do a quick body scan: Find a comfortable position, breathe slowly and deeply, and then work through your body, from your head to your toes. What sensations are you noticing? Where is there tension? Where is their pain? Could those be indicators of things that need God’s loving care?


If a memory, regret, or feeling comes to mind, welcome it. It might help to put a hand on your chest, to allow your body to sit with the discomfort for a bit. As you open up to the Spirit’s Healing Presence and Light, allow yourself to be seen and loved. Remember that God’s intention for you is wholeness and restoration, not condemnation.


Rest

God, we fight the need to repent, to admit our wrongdoing, to feel the weight of regret. And yet, in it there is forgiveness and healing. We pray that, in our own lives, “steadfast love and faithfulness would meet…”. We ask that, in our families, in our communities, and in our world, “Faithfulness would spring up from the ground, and righteousness would look down from the sky.”


Jesus, we are in desperate need of your healing!


About the Author


Kendall Smith is an educator in central Kansas, a wife to one, a mom of three, and is also finishing up her MACF from North Park Theological Seminary. She and her brother write about faith, wrestling, doubt, and the goodness of God in their blog “Invitation to Wonder”. Read more of her work at www.invitationtowonder.com.





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