Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” This psalm of lament cries for God’s presence in the midst of great distress. The people interpret God’s seeming absence as anger, which fosters their great anxiety. In verse 5, the psalmist states that the people have been fed the “bread of tears.” This stands in sharp contrast to the bread of the Presence (literally “bread of faces”), which is the bread offered to God in the Temple. (See Exodus 25:30.) The sacred bread of the Presence evokes the remembered experience of God’s nearness and sustenance. The people hunger for God’s “face,” for God’s presence. For God’s face to shine metaphorically indicates that God has turned toward the people in loving concern.
Stories of people who seem to be given nothing but tears to consume fill the headlines. In the midst of violence, suffering, and loss in our neighborhoods and around the world, the refrain of this psalm seems perennially resonant. Where is God in the midst of suffering? Why does God seem so far away? If God loves us, why are things allowed to be as they are?
Though the psalm doesn’t answer these deeply human questions, its words point to an equally human response: hope in the restoring, life-giving power of God’s love. As we draw closer to the first Sunday of Advent, we remember that God, out of love, came into the world in the flesh. We remember that in Jesus we see God’s love in a human face. We remember that in the midst of all the world’s pain, God’s love has drawn near to sustain, restore, and save.
Let your face shine on me, loving God. Grant me hope, that I may live. Amen.
Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you found yourself in a disorienting setting? What was your cry to God? What response to your lament did you seek?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What in you needs the restoration that only God can give?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How might you become a means of reconciliation in your family, your work setting, your city?
• Read Mark 13:24-37. What especially do you long for this Advent-Christmas? How can you participate in the transforming love of Christ to manifest a reconciling spirit?
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