Advent Readings Day 20

Reading: Psalm 80

“How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?  You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. 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.” Psalm 80

At this time one year ago we were confronted with a harsh reality in working with the families that our organization works with – Death.  It was not the first time I had encountered death before.  As a pastor I had sat with numerous families who have recently lost loved ones in the US.  I had helped with arrangements, viewed the body, put together funeral services and prayed at gravesides.   I had had the privilege and honor of grieving with those who grieved.  However, those experiences in no way prepared me for what I would face when the child of a mom who is the poorest of the poor would die.

We had watched this child get sicker and sicker and there was no medical intervention available for her.  A 4 year old child with Down’s Syndrome who was battling pneumonia and congestive heart failure, yet we somehow imagined that she had years in front of her.  But, then the news came that December morning – she had passed away the night before and she was being buried that morning.

Within this culture the burial has to happen fast because there is no embalming.  We rushed to the home where we viewed this tiny little lifeless body and in disbelief watched as her body was put in a makeshift pine coffin and carried by taxi to the cemetery.  There was to be no priest at the graveside because the mom was not in good standing with the church.  The women wailed and trembled as we walked ¼ mile to the gravesite.  Then we watched as young men dug the grave, the box was put in the ground and covered and the women wailed uncontrollably and staggered.  There were no prayers offered.  No words spoken.  No pronouncements made. No memories remembered. Just tears and raw pain.  I realized at that moment how in The West we do so much to cushion the blow of the rawness of death.

Where was hope?  That day those family members were eating the bread of tears and drinking tears by the bowlful.  Actually the eating and drinking of tears had started years before as this little girl was born with a disability to a single mom who was a refugee and without any financial means at all.  This family knew suffering well.  It was their life as they sat and ate and drank another round of tears.

Where was hope?  It is in the refrain of this Psalm.  It is in the hope that people in the dark times before Jesus’ coming somehow held onto despite the odds.

Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

No matter how many tears had been eaten and drank over years of darkness, there was this hope that The Almighty God whose arm was long enough to save, would reach in and bring restoration, wholeness and salvation.  Finally the things that were lost would be restored and the things that were broken would be made whole.  Sin, death and darkness would no longer get the last word.  Salvation and rescue would come.

And, in the flesh He came.  His name…Jesus.  Jesus, The Restorer.  Jesus, The Rescuer.  Jesus, The Savior.  Jesus, The Refrain.

No matter how dark and broken – there was hope.  It was possible to catch one’s breath and say, He is still coming.  The Almighty One will still save us.

And He did and He does and He will.

Today, renew your trust in Jesus.  Whether you have long ate the bread of tears and drank tears by the bowlful or things seem to be pretty smooth – He has come to restore you and to make His face shine upon you – to save you.  That’s Good News.

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