Of course, as we see from this psalm, this isn’t the Hebrew’s first trip to the rodeo either. While I can’t speak to what they witnessed firsthand, scripture is filled with stories of their ancestors constantly being blown away by God’s glory. The most famous happening as they wandered in the wilderness, for 40 years after their exodus from Egypt.
And now, once again, a large group of God’s people have found themselves wondering in a state of flux. After being exiled for 70 long years, they're finally allowed to go home only to find there is no home to go too. Their city and beloved temple were in ruins. The shops, houses, and infrastructure had been completely demolished. Everything was gone. Everything but God.
Despite all that they had endured and the challenges they face to rebuild Jerusalem, these refugees were able to rejoice, if for no other reason but by their faith in God’s faithfulness. They knew what God had done for them in the past. And they knew God would do the same for them in the present…and all they could do was laugh.
Their hearts were so in awe of God’s faithful love that the psalmist said their sorrow literally poured out of them as pure delight. Yes, they cried as they looked at their city in ruins. But they laughed because they knew this was not the end of the story.
God is always up to something. Always moving heaven to earth and earth towards heaven.
What this tells me is that we are never without an excuse to rejoice and be filled with laughter because whatever mountainous pile of rubble we find ourselves stuck on, we know God is there with us… moving, transforming, restoring. Just as God is busy in our lives, we too are needed to be here in this present space because there’s still work to be done.
Now, the second half is this psalm makes it really clear that this isn’t a trip down memory lane. It’s not a call to return to the good old days… but a reminder that better days are about to come.
Although their faith is in the past, the exiles stand in the present with their eye on the future. With tears mixed with sadness and joy, they shout, “Do it again, God. Bring rains to our dried-up lives so as we plant our crops in despair, we will be able to rejoice at the harvest.”
Like Talithia Arnold notes, “Their seeds of joy were planted in sadness and watered with tears.” And this is where God meets them, taking their deepest and darkest despair and bringing new life. Their city and the Temple would rise like a phoenix from the ashes. And God’s glory shined so bright upon them that the world is taken by surprise. And God’s people became the talk of all the nations.
In that space between our suffering and joy, God is hard at work; loving us and making all things new again.
While this psalm might seem more fitting for spring or autumn, it is given to us in the darkest part of advent to remind us that in Christ, God is with us. God has not abandon us or left us to suffer alone in our pain.
Instead, God hears our cries and comes to us in the flesh, to make us whole and new again. We can rejoice in our weariness because we know that when the world kicks the joy out of us God will kick it back in. God’s love can never be defeated. It always wins.
Next week is a special Advent in that it falls on Christmas eve. And so we will not only light the candle of love, but we also light the Christ candle as a reminder of what God’s love can ultimately do. Bring hope when life seems hopeless. Bring peace when life is chaotic and restless. Bring joy into those spaces of our lives that have been joyless.
In Christ, God’s steadfast love has redeemed our past and secured our future. But what we do with that love now, is up to us. As we spend the season of advent waiting for Christ, we are called to wait actively in all the ways we love God, love others, and serve both.
We do this by being fully present in Anamesa, living our faith in God’s faithfulness; shining Christ’s light in all the ways we can bring hope, peace, joy, and love to someone who has none.
As we wait, we participate in heaven here on earth, knowing what God has done, is doing and will do. God is up to something and has invited us to be a part of the surprise.
Let us go out into the world, preparing our hearts and home for his wondrous birth, knowing whatever seeds we sow in Christ’s name will reap a harvest of God’s joy.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting On The Word, Year B Vol. 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”