Advent Reading Day 12 – Setting the Lonely in Families

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun scorched land.”  Psalm 68:5-6

Family.   It is one of the great things about the holidays for so many of us.  A time to see family members that we only see one time per year.  A time to feast with those we love.  A time to celebrate traditions that have stood the test of time.  And then there also are the celebrations with those within our family of faith that we celebrate, too.  Of course being with family comes with difficulties and struggles, but there is something special about coming together as family to mark Jesus’ coming and all that His advent means.

Jesus’ coming means a lot for the family…but His coming also means a lot for the lonely.   The Psalmist in Psalm 68 gives us insight into God’s heart for the fatherless, the widow, the lonely and the prisoner.   They are the people who suffer at Christmas while the rest of us join in our festivities.   They are the ones for whom Christmas can come and go without ever having noticed that much of anything good or with meaning has happened.  The fatherless who have no one to celebrate with.   The widow who pines for years gone by when she had a companion.  The lonely who will hear about yet another gathering of people to which they will not be included in.  The prisoner who will spend the holidays behind bars while leaving their children fatherless at Christmas.     The hopelessness that comes in these situations is the source of a deeper poverty that goes far beyond material poverty – it is a poverty that hits at the core of one’s being.  It is a poverty that comes from feeling abandoned, forgotten and forsaken and brings with it a despair and hopelessness that are the marks of true poverty.  Family is one of the hardest things to swallow during the holidays for those who have no one to celebrate with.

This passage contains another reality shift because of Jesus’ coming.   We see God’s intent which then comes into reality as Jesus comes and will be known in its fullness at His return.   It is a status shift full of hope and meaning.   He is Father to the fatherless.   That is good news to those who are orphaned.   He is defender of the widow – He watches over them as they have lost the one who provided and watched over them.  He sets the lonely into families – it is not good for them to be alone (remember God’s remarks in the Garden of Eden) so He places them in families where life and love can flow.   He brings freedom to the prisoner and they go out with singing – there is Hope.

Passages like this reinforce for me that God’s intention is about so much more than me having a nice holiday celebration when I mark another year since His coming.   In this passage I see the raw passion of the relational God who is on a mission to set all things right.   He ensures that the fatherless, the widow, the lonely and the prisoner do not go unnoticed.   And, I believe that His desire is that they not go unnoticed by us as His followers, either.   He cares.  He showed that full force in His coming.  He continues to care not only about us, but about these people groups who are so very close to His heart as the forgotten and forsaken.

I am struck by the godliness of some folks I know.  One family I know has a house full of people every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  They invite the lonely, the widow, the family-less, the broken and the forgotten.  And, for a day the lonely have been set in a family.  It is a cool glimpse into God’s Kingdom which goes beyond our family boundaries and breaks across a much wider swath.   This family gives up their “personal” family time of celebration in order to welcome in a wider and broader family.  They set the table large and full and welcome others in – sounds like Our Father doesn’t it?

Where are the forgotten in your setting?  Where are the fatherless, the widows, the lonely and the prisoner?  Is there a way to draw your family circle a bit wider over this advent season and include them relationally?   The Psalmist shows us God’s intent.  Jesus’ coming makes it reality.  Now, you and I get to be His hands and feet in partnership with Him seeing the reality of the lonely being set into families played out.   May Jesus lead us to the lonely this Christmas.  I believe that as we set the table wide, we will be all the richer for it.  If you are open, who knows whom God may set in your family this Christmas?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for family.  Thank you for the ways you have brought me into relationship with others through blood as well as through choice.   I pray for the lonely.  I pray that you would set them into families – the fatherless, the orphan, the lonely and the prisoner – set all of them into loving, caring relationships where they can see you reflected.  Today, restore their hope.  And, I pray that you would empower me to do whatever you would call me to in order to be present to them this Christmas season.  Help me to include those this Christmas whom you include. Amen.

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