Advent 2012: Preparing The Path: When You Can’t See The Shepherd!

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

Rev. Mark Foster

Today, we are excited to once again have a special guest post from Rev. Mark Foster. Pastor Mark is the Founding Pastor of Acts 2 United Methodist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He married his wife Chantelle in August 1991. They have two sons, John Mark and Noah. Pastor Mark is led by the Spirit and is passionate about seeing people come to know Jesus. We met Pastor Mark in October of last year when we began to attend Acts 2 UMC. We are blessed to call him our Pastor, and are honored that he has written today’s guest post.

A reading from the Psalms.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

— Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)

I am shocked and amazed at the boldness of the writer of this text. The writer is calling God out saying, “Listen, Shepherd, throw beams of light from your dazzling throne . . . Get out of bed – you’ve slept long enough!” This is the interpretation of Eugene Peterson in The Message Bible.

You can’t talk to God like that can you? Well, apparently you can. You can even sing it as a group. This scripture would have been sung by the earliest followers of our Lord. Yet, these are the words of a desperate person, of a desperate people.

You can hear the frantic cry, “Save us before it’s too late!” These are the cries of people who see themselves as the least, the last, and the lost. Not only are they hard-pressed on every side, but their enemies and acquaintances are laughing at them in their misfortune. It is one thing to have a bad day, bad week, bad year, or even bad generation. It is another thing to have our enemies poke fun at us day after day in the midst of our misery. These are folks in need of a Savior! These are the people who long to see a smile in any part of their day even from a stranger.

They need a God who can make a difference in their lives. They need the God of the Angel-Armies who can shake the earth with a whisper. Yet they feel ashamed, forgotten, and ridiculed. Somehow they know that if God will just turn His face a few degrees towards them, everything will change with His smile. With a mere turn of His cheek, the cold chill and hardness of winter will begin to break into the warmth of spring and bring new life to that which has looked dead for months. While they have been drowning in their own salty-tears, they know that even the slightest glance of the King of Kings and Maker of the Universe will change their fate.

“God come back!” they cry.

The Psalms are the people of faith’s songbook. Can you sing this with them and all who have gone before us? Or is your song more contemporary? Many other songs compete for this response. Frank Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way” has been a hit among many for decades in America. While we might not agree concerning the lack of reverence of the singers of Psalm 80, they do at least grasp the truth about the situation that God is the answer and our salvation.

There is something quite familiar with this text. Have you ever felt forgotten? Can you remember those early days of elementary school when your parents were running late? Do you remember how your heart would begin to race when you realized that, “They should have been here by now?” If you have lived long enough to raise a teenager to driving age, you know this feeling well. It is easy to feel forgotten in the waiting seasons of life.

We are a smart people whose tiny hearts grow afraid when things do not go our way. We become aware of our humanity, vulnerability, and mortality. We, too, need a big God who will not forget us. Fortunately for us, we do have a God who is bigger and beyond our thinking or imagination! Our God is not asleep. Our God does not slumber. If He is silent, it is for our good. If He is out of sight, perhaps behind us for a moment by our own frantic pace, it is for our protection. If God seems out of reach to us, perhaps it is because we have forgotten that it is not we who grab hold of God but God who has a hold of us in one hand and the entire universe and future in the other.

So we cry out with the Psalmist, “Come Lord Jesus!” And the beautiful gift of Advent serves as a reminder again and again that the Lord does reign even when hidden within the womb of a pregnant teenager. The Lord does come to us even when we cannot find Him at the finest hotel. And we are afraid, “I thought He’d be here by now.” In Truth, He is here but in the alley.

We cry, “Come Lord Jesus before it is too late!” And the Lord Almighty “God-of-the-Angel-Armies” replies, “I am time. I am all time!” And they said to Jesus, “If only you had come sooner.” And Jesus the Great I am replies, “Rise!” Friends, there is no such thing as “too late with Jesus.” Just ask Lazarus and his sisters. There is no such thing as “too late” with the Lord, just ask Moses as he awaited the parting of the Red Sea. Friends, there is no such thing as “too late with God’s Spirit” for you or for me.

So, Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we ask not that You would come, but that You would reveal to us how you are and have always been with us, Emmanuel, “God with us” forever and always, Amen.


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