Throughout Advent I will be posting sections from my weekly devotions in SURVIVING THE BIBLE: A Devotional for the Church Year 2018. Find the rest of this week’s devotional and for each week throughout the 2018 Church Year in the book (now available everywhere).
The prophet, on behalf of the exiled people of Jerusalem, is nostalgic for the time when God has intervened on behalf of the Jews. He also is lamenting the apparent absence of God from the exiles, which, he deems, is because of their sinfulness.
Psalm: Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19
This psalm is structured like most psalms of lament. First there is a celebration of the grandeur and enduring grace of God. Second, the problems of the psalmist’s people are laid out. Third, there’s the request for God to help. And whether God is angry about the prayers of the people or at the people themselves, divine anger is noted by the author.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth, setting an example of thanksgiving to God for enduring grace, and reminding that their own gifts and abilities are first given by God.
Gospel: Mark 13:24–37
Jesus warns his followers to stay alert, to be aware of the distractions of false prophets, and not to fall into such distractions or complacency while waiting for his return after his inevitable crucifixion.
Heads Up: Connecting the text to our world
These scriptures make me think of Doug, the dog in the movie “Up.” His owner affixed a speaking device to his collar, translating his every “dog thought” into English. And he says a lot of stuff you’d expect a dog to say, like “I don’t know you yet, but I love you!” Doug also struggles to follow a thought through once he starts explaining something, inevitably interrupted mid-sentence by yet another squirrel.
We all end up chasing squirrels now and then or, if you’re like me, a dozen times an hour when the latest alert pops up on your phone. There’s even a term for getting lost down topical rabbit holes online; it’s called “WWILFing,” which stands for “What Was I Looking For?”
There are more existential rabbit holes for us too, like when we get so consumed in the minutiae and stress of daily life that we forget to slow down and be grateful for what we already have in our lives. Sometimes it takes stopping and resting in silence for a few minutes, or offering a silent word of thanks to regain perspective and reclaim our spiritual centers.
This advent—and every Christmas season, really—there are even more distractions than usual. On top of shopping and decorating, there is the seemingly endless stream of social events and end-of-year work items, nagging at our waning minutes. It’s so incredibly easy to turn around and feel utterly lost, without a center, without purpose. And a life without a sense of direction and purpose often points to a life that has lost touch with God.