category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 2

Monday, November 29

Numbers 17:1–11; Psalm 90; 2 Peter 3:1–18

The texts for today’s devotion at first glance seem an odd miscellany: a story about a budding, flowering, almond-bearing staff that signifies God’s choice of Aaron; a psalm voicing the lament of a suffering people; stern warnings about the coming “day of the Lord.” One common thread tying all three together is the insistence that there will be severe consequences for being rebellious and unrepentant in light of God’s promises of a day when God’s justice will make the world right and exclude from it all that is wrong. Such a theme is at the heart of Advent, which is not a four-week-long joyful anticipation of the celebration of Christmas, but rather the “Winter Lent.” Advent is a penitential season, and these texts do remind us that there is much of which we personally need to repent so that when that justice-doing day of the Lord does come, we are not among the rebellious and unrepentant whose way of life has no place in the world made fully right by God’s righteousness.

As I have continued to meditate on these three texts, however, Psalm 90 has emerged as the text that focuses me on other dimensions of our relation to the coming day of the Lord that help us discern additional Advent overtones in Numbers 17 and 2 Peter 3. Barry A. Jones, my friend and former teaching colleague, writes this about Psalm 90 in his book Gaining a Heart of Wisdom: A Model for Theological Interpretation of Scripture ([Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2019], 119):
“What is the trajectory of Psalm 90? Where does it lead? … The psalm, like many other texts in the Old Testament, offers a candid acknowledgment of suffering and an open questioning of the idea that the duration of suffering is commensurate with the sins of the people or the covenant promises of God. In the context of American churches, the long-term, communal suffering implied in Psalm 90 has often been the experience of people of color living under the long histories of slavery, forced segregation, and continuing discrimination. When prayers of communal lament are absent from worship in privileged communities, the injustices suffered by marginalized communities can be more easily ignored or forgotten, and the complicity of privileged groups, including communities of faith, in structures of discrimination can be more easily denied.”

This particular Advent, there is plenty of suffering to lament, and no community has been spared from some connection to suffering. We should lament it in our Advent worship, for to complain to God about how things are and to ask “how long?” it will be until God does something about it is to identify with God’s own perspective about these things. And when we lament, we should let these laments lead us toward solidarity with others who have long lamented the injustices that we have too long ignored. Through such laments, “we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Peter 3:13 NRSV).

Steve Harmon
Professor of  Historical Theology

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Advent Reflection: Day 1

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Advent Reflection: Day 3

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