Throughout this Advent season, my goal is to take each of the four Lectionary readings for each week and write a meditation about each one. Largely, my motivation for this is simply that I love the season of Advent, yet there is also a little bit of hoping that by blogging through this season, I can use it as a means to grieve the recent passing of my Dad.
We asked our friend, Reverend Nathan Kilbourne, if he would take this week’s optional Lectionary reading and offer a meditation for us. We are excited and blessed that he said yes. In addition to serving on the Advisory Board of Led By The Word, Rev. Kilbourne serves as the Associate Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR. He is a graduate of the Duke Divinity School.
Week 4: A reading from the Psalms
I will sing of your steadfast, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'”
Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said: “I have set the crown of one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him; my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him. My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name shall his horn be exalted.”— Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (NRSV)
Psalm 89 seems pretty cut and dry when it comes to its place in the Advent season. Our current pericope (verses 1-4, 19-26) is pretty upbeat. The Psalmist desires to sing of the Lord’s “steadfast love” forever and proclaim how faithful God has been. The writer reminds the people of God of the covenant established by God with his servant David. Everlasting hope was to be found in the establishment of this earthly kingdom and in the Davidic line. God will use this kingdom to bring about salvation and be present in the world through this line.
On the surface it seems like it is pretty cut and dry – a proclamation of praise to the God who keeps promises.However, if we were to take a peek beyond the prescribed passage, we discover this Psalm is not one of praise but of lament. In verse 38, there is a key shift. After the Psalmist has proclaimed praise to God who has established David’s kingdom, the Psalmist writes, “But now you have spurned and rejected him; you are full of wrath against your anointed.” Even more poignantly toward the end of the Psalm, the writer questions, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”
Here we catch a glimpse of the true nature of the Psalm. The psalmist knows the promises of God in the past, and yet, the Davidic line has seemingly to an end. God’s ruler no longer sits on the throne, how can God’s promises be fulfilled? It seems that all hope is lost and joy is out of reach. It seems to be a dark, bleak moment. Because the Davidic kingdom has ended, it is a moment of great angst. Out of great distress, the psalmist cries out to the heavens knowing he needs God but asks, “How are you going to respond to all this?” Will not God act as we expect?
Advent is a time of great expectation and anticipation as we await the coming of the Christ child. And yet, we look for him in the places we expect him to be, or better yet, in the places we have designated or assigned him to be. But, God has acted in a surprising way. The psalmist could only see salvation happening in a designated system. But the promise of God was much larger than what could be perceived.
Though hope was fleeting, God’s promise was going to be fulfilled. God’s love was steadfast. However, it was found in an unexpected, unforeseen way. The Davidic line would not be the author of salvation but the source of salvation, a salvation even greater than anticipated.
In the narrative of salvation, God was faithful and God’s steadfast love did endure!
As we journey closer to the birth of Jesus, maybe we need to examine how we search for the Christ child. Do we confine Jesus to only a certain place or among certain people? Or do we venture out and find him wrapped in swaddling cloth lying in a manger or hear angels pronouncing good news to outcast shepherds? May we yield ourselves to the Spirit of God and the Spirit’s movement in the world.
Let us pray, “Open our eyes, holy one. Forgive us when we get ahead of you, thinking we know what is best. Help us to see your love being born among us in unexpected ways and follow you. Your love does indeed endure forever and you are faithful to all generations. Amen.”