Wednesday, Dec. 21:
AM Psalm 72; PM Psalm 111, 113; 2 Samuel 7:1-17;
Titus 2:11—3:8a; Luke 1:39-48a(48b-56)
Advent as a time of journeying? Of going somewhere? I thought it was a time of waiting, of sitting more than journeying. A new thought! But it must be right: after all, one iconic image of Advent is a pregnant woman, astride a donkey, with a graying-soon-to-be-first-time father walking alongside. Going somewhere.
“Going somewhere” has always been a significant aspect of our family’s life. In the many places we have lived, we were usually hours, or days, from grandparents; so Sally and I developed a repertoire of road songs. They served the desperate moments when books became boring and an argument was about to break out in the back seat. (I still think they’re better than DVDs.)
“Going somewhere” was also significant in the spiritual life of ancient Israel. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem were part of the regular rhythm of worship for faithful Jews; and God provided them with road songs for the journey—the fourteen Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.
I read the Songs of Ascent recently and was struck by the range of experiences they cover. God gave Israel a song for just about anything they might encounter on the journey—threat, hardship, loneliness, joy, family togetherness, penitence, happy times around a campfire. The song I’ve been singing on my most recent road trip has been Psalm 123. Here’s my version:
Lord, I lift my eyes up to you – like a servant looks to his master
(for instructions, and for the supplies I need for the task you command),
like a maidservant looks to her mistress,
(I am small, and waiting)
I am looking to you for mercy.
And I will continue to look till you have mercy on me
till you have mercy.
Why? I have had more than enough.
More than enough of unbelief, of mockery, of pride.
More than enough of that foul air, around me and within me.
More than enough.
Lord have mercy.
Reading this, it sounds like this has been a miserable season. Actually it hasn’t. This fall I’ve laughed a lot, loved a lot and been loved a lot. Still, I am pretty constantly aware of my limits.
Recently, while traveling, I woke up too early one morning (not uncommon) and I lay in bed thinking about things I had failed to do and that, by reason of distance, I could not do. About that time I got a text: “Urgent! We need ________! Where are they?” I didn’t have a clue, but the awareness of my smallness was fierce. “Lord, have mercy.” On another recent occasion, I entered into a pressure-packed, intensely difficult conversation, not knowing at all how to set an agenda or manage the process. I had no wisdom or plan. “Lord, I am waiting to be told and waiting to be supplied. Have mercy, Lord.”
Another time, temptation raised its familiar head. I made the right choice in the moment, but the tempter mocked, “You can get away from me this time, but it won’t last: I’ll wear you down. I’ll find your weak spot.”
“Lord, I have had more than enough. Have mercy.”
In 1 Kings 19, an angel told Elijah, “The journey is too great for you.” I am so thankful that I can say to God, “I have had more than enough: have mercy.” If not for that, I would quit walking for sure.
(Today’s exercise: At some point today sing out loud. Sing whatever strikes you as most singable. But do sing out loud. And as you sing, remember that day and night “God rejoices over you with singing.”)