This Sunday morning was the last in advent and we spent some time in church reflecting on Psalm 126, a prayer of Israel to the God of reversal and restoration. The Psalm begins with this famous note of praise about the experience of exiles returning to Jerusalem: ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.’ I mentioned that the word translated by the NRSV as ‘restored’ literally means 'turnaround.' Israel is left pinching itself as it thinks about what God has done.
In light of its memory of homecoming from Babylon, Israel then prays for another reversal experience, so that those who sow in tears might reap a harvest of joy. I spoke this morning about how psalm’s understanding of a God who turns situations on their head when he acts was obviously shared by Mary who anticipates the work of God in the baby she is bearing and sings of how the powerful have been removed from thrones while the lowly are lifted up and the hungry filled with good things.
At the end, I shared this prayer for God to intervene in our own situations. A couple of people asked me for the words so I thought they were worth sharing here:
I pray that those of us who so often feel yourselves to be rejected and worthless, would look again at Jesus and see afresh the welcome of God which is extended to us.
I pray that those of us who feel trapped in sin and patterns of addiction and poor choices would turn again to him and fully commit to him, because if we chase after any other source of contentment in this life we are on a hiding to nothing. I pray we would know the satisfaction that comes when we drink the water of life only he can bring.
I pray that those of us here who feel ourselves gripped by anxiety and worry and fear for the future, and what might happen… I pray we would know the turnaround of a peace deep within our hearts that only he can bring.
I pray that those of us who are in situations where we feel yourselves to be, frankly, at the end of our tether, because we have no more energy or ideas left… I pray we would know the reversal which comes from a hope and a wisdom only he can bring.
I pray that those of us who live in chaos would know the order only he can brings.
I pray that those of us who live with the constant experience of sickness and pain in our homes would know the comfort and strength only he can bring, and, yes, the healing too.
I pray that those of who feel we are in the desert would know his rain falling soon, bringing life to dry places.
I pray that those of us who so often never look beyond our guilt and failure would look to Jesus in the manger and Jesus on the cross and receive in a new way the forgiveness and life he is holding out to us.
I pray that at this Christmas time we would know, for sure, that he is the God of turnaround and reversal and he is God with us. Amen.