Wednesday of Advent I – Psalm 80:1-7

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 an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.

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

My wife works at a local hospital. When the pandemic struck, the masks went on early and stayed on longer than the general population. She reports that, because flu and COVID are returning, they have back for her and her colleagues. She started working there during the pandemic and, as a result, had not seen many of her colleagues without a mask until relatively recently. She was surprised to find out what they looked like. She had only known their eyes and foreheads. The nose and shape of one’s mouth and jaw changes things.

Verses 3 and 7 function like a refrain in this psalm. He prays that God restores and lets his face shine. No mask on that day, just the smiling, shining face of God. You may want to open your Bible and read the rest of this psalm. We sang it not long ago, in October to be precise. The psalmist remembers that God planted the people he brought from Egypt in the land like a vine. But now the vineyard is ravaged, a wild boar roots up the vines, looking for grubs to consume. He asks God to have mercy, to look again with compassion on this vine which once he tended so carefully. He looks forward to a “son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!” (vs 17). No need to wonder who that is! The refrain comes back once more – verse 19.

In this first week of Advent 2023 these are our words as well: Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! Our unrest, frailty, conflict, and fears reveal what has always been true. We need God’s face to shine on us.

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