category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 19

Thursday, December 17

Psalm 89:1–4, 19–26; 2 Samuel 6:1–11; Hebrews 1:1–4

One of the most disheartening aspects of this pandemic has been the inability to make plans and keep commitments. My “cancellations” for the year included multiple funerals, several family gatherings, a dentist appointment, a doctor’s appointment, my youngest daughter’s 4th birthday party and my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday party, just to name a few. It’s also worth noting that my trial sermon at First Baptist Church (Gainesville, GA) was presented to a sanctuary with approximately twenty individuals in attendance; I can assure you that was not in any of our plans! It should be noted that the challenges I have faced pale in comparison to what others have experienced this year. Many individuals have lost or are about to lose their homes, jobs, businesses, and churches. Still others have been directly affected by the death of a loved one who contracted COVID–19. It is daunting to imagine what other challenges we will face by the time 2020 comes to a close.

The whole of Psalm 89 is classified as a “community lament,” but you wouldn’t know it by today’s selection. The psalm begins with an affirmation of God’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness,” and verses 19–26 testify to God’s strong and mighty presence alongside the Davidic king. Shortly after our focal passage comes to a close, the psalmist enters a lament on behalf of Israel, leading him to ask, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” (Psalm 89:49). What are we supposed to make of this sacred juxtaposition?

On multiple occasions, God’s people experienced the worst kind of “broken plans.” There were times when their personal, cultural, and religious ways of life became utterly compromised by famine, disease, invasion, exile, and oppression. With such tragedies came an understandable erosion of trust in God’s love and protection. The scriptures remind us, however, that God’s faithfulness precedes and transcends all broken plans, and even in the worst of times, God remains on his throne. I wonder if this is what the Psalmist had in mind when he included words of praise at the start of a communal lament.

This season asks something significant of the Church: to trust in God’s steadfast love in a period of real and ongoing tragedy. The Advent of the King of Kings compels us to “proclaim God’s faithfulness to all generations,” even during a pandemic. Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, we sense the reality of an “already but not yet.” Indeed, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, and the “brokenness” of the world will find its ending when his work is finished. We can rest assured that Christ will not break any plans!

Reverend Jeremy Shoulta
Pastor of First Baptist Church (Gainesville, GA)
Doctor of Ministry Student

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