Advent IV: Love
Psalm 80: 3, 6-7
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved. . . .
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.
As we approach the day that we remember the birth of Jesus, we remember the love that showed up on earth when a baby was born into the town of Bethlehem. The people of God did not need just a gentle or simple love. They were desperate for a love that moved mountains and released them from the bondage that plagued them for generations. While certainly God’s love shows up in the quiet moments of life and we can feel that love on calm and peaceful days, so many of us long for a love that makes a difference. An active love that brings justice. A love that elevates the righteous and good above those who work to harm lives and livelihood.
The Psalmist cries, “You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us that we may be saved.” (Ps 80: 6-7)
We see this tension we are looking at the battles we face across political and social beliefs at our family and community holiday celebration, at the way we are increasingly divided in the United States, or when we examine the grief and fear that seems ever present in the conflicts in the Middle East. We know the pain and loneliness of feeling abandoned as others mock and deride us. We call out of the love of a God who comes to rescue and redeem us in truth and victory.
This year we have lament. We lamented as aid was cut to Palestinian refugees and Middle Eastern immigrants to the United States. We lamented the deadly attack at Tree of Life synagogue near Pittsburgh this October, which reminded us that anti-Semitism still threatens the lives of Jewish people. And, we lamented not only the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but also the merging of the US consulate that seemed to mock the cries of the Palestinian people and their call for a place in the future of the land.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, who knew well the laments of a people derided by their neighbors, sings a song of hope when she hears that Jesus is coming. She boldly reminds us to take courage, proclaiming that God has “lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”
Mary knew that love-in-action was about to show up. This promise gave her courage. Her words can give us courage today to love in those same ways that honors the humble and fill the hungry.
Live into that love this Christmas season as we honor the one who came with love.
Creator God, teach us to live and act in a way that brings forth your love into the world. May we live a life of courageous love in a world where so often it feels that the hatred, mockery, and derision seems to be winning. We want our lives to show the kind of love that sees the mocked and derided and lifts them up. The kind of love that fills the hungry and honors the humble. This Christmas may we remember all the people of the Holy Land and seek ways to live into love for Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
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