Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent, Day 8

Praise God in the holy temple; 
 give praise in the firmament of heaven.
Praise God who is mighty in deed; 
 give praise for God’s excellent greatness.
Praise God with the blast of the ram’s-horn; 
 give praise with lyre and harp.
Praise God with timbrel and dance; 
 give praise with strings and pipe.
Praise God with resounding cymbals; 
 give praise with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath 
 praise the LORD.

- Psalm 150

Standing in stark contrast to the readings of judgment we've been getting so far in Advent is this psalm of praise, the final psalm, the conclusion of the ancient Hebrew songbook. While Amos rants against the idle rich, and the second letter to the Thessalonians predicts eternal damnation for those who afflict the righteous, jubilant praise always stands in the background.

The Hebrew roots of our Christian faith are the roots of an oppressed people, an occupied people, a people always under threat from forces more powerful than they. These are a people who have a few very powerful stories of deliverance and glory encased in centuries of disappointment.

Yes, God calls Abraham, but later Joseph is sold into Egypt as a slave.

Yes, God helps Joseph rise to power in Egypt, but later rulers forget about his people.

Yes, God calls Moses to deliver the people through the Red Sea, but then they wander aimlessly for forty years.

Yes, God helps Joshua bring the people into Canaan and conquer it, but then lawlessness reigns for generations afterward.

Yes, God calls David to lead a mighty kingdom, but that kingdom is almost immediately divided.

Yes, God's prophets call the people to repentance, but first the northern and then the southern kingdom are driven into exile.

Yes, God calls a foreign ruler, Cyrus, to allow the people to rebuild their temple, but then the temple id destroyed yet again.

And so it goes. God works a wonder, and the people fail to honor it. And so Psalm 150 is a good reminder to people of faith in every generation not to forget the ways God keeps coming to our rescue. In our own Christian context during Advent, we can praise God for the gift of Jesus, coming now and coming soon.

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