Wednesday, Advent 1: Humility

The Psalms of Advent

You are invited to light a candle and join me in our final reflection on this particular Psalm of Advent, Psalm 124.  Please sit with these verses:

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side
—let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive . . .
(Verses 1-3, New Revised Standard Version)

You may find the rest of the psalm here:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20124&version=NRSVUE.

This psalm ends with an affirmation of the grace of the Holy One:  “Our help is in the name of the Lord; who made heaven and earth”  (Verse 8).  My understanding of grace is that it is a gift given with no strings attached, given to those who have done nothing to earn it, and this author fully acknowledges that gift. 

As I reflected, again, on this psalm that has become more of a friend than a stranger to me over these past few days, the word that came to me is not a word found in the psalm and yet is a word that glimmered over these verses:  humility.  Here we find Jewish pilgrims on their way to the temple in Jerusalem, and while they ascend the temple steps, they sing this psalm that admits it is God, Yahweh, not themselves, who has saved them from danger.  If their God had not been on their side, repeated twice, they realize they would have found themselves in grave peril.

Here, in this psalm, notice that bragging is absent.  Here, in these ancient lines, boasting is unfathomable.  Here, in this song of worship, arrogance has no place.  The Jewish people have survived a crisis not because of their own efforts, and so the Holy One is given the credit where credit is due.  Yet, how often in our modern times do we hear politicians, bosses, religious leaders, celebrities, and perhaps even family and friends (or maybe ourselves) speak of what they have accomplished, all on their own?  In the United States, our politicians and political parties vie with one another over who has done the most, who has claimed the victory and sealed the deal, all by themselves, conveniently forgetting the American motto, “In GOD we trust.”   Our business people and multibillionaires brag about making things better, bigger, just by the touch of their hands.  “My rights” means I don’t need to consider anyone else. Psalm 124 will have none of that boasting or self-reliance, instead proclaiming that help comes from the Holy One.

Humility is tough.  We want to be seen, affirmed, and admired for our gifts, skills, accomplishments, looks, etc, etc.   We want to be appreciated.  We especially want to be paid, and paid well. And then here comes humility, reminding us that someone else, human and/or divine, has something to do with where and who we are.  Here comes humility, reminding us about that log in our own eye instead of worrying about the speck in another’s. Here comes humility, reminding us that there will always be someone better at what we do than us and still encouraging us to offer our gifts and talents anyway, not just for our good, but for the greater good. 

The root word for humility is humus, which means dirt or earth.  Humility is not about self-abasement or shame but is, instead, about being grounded enough to recognize both our blessings and gifts and our limitations and challenges.  Humility is a realization that, yes, we do need each other, and yes, we do need the Holy.

For those of us who are Christians, the prime example of humility is the Divine One who chose to lower itself to become a Human, and not any human, but a poor, blue-collar male human with no social standing or status and who never achieved a palace, a White House, a Kremlin, prestige, wealth, or rave reviews for all his efforts.  Yet in this lowering of self, the Divine-human was able to serve, teach, minister, pray, and demonstrate a kind of love that no one else could have imagined, an all-inclusive love, a grace that is extended to all people, a humility grounded in love.

I wonder, in this dark season, where I might surrender to a humbler spirit, and so I give thanks for the messages whispered from Psalm 124.    Blessings ~ Rosemary

A Psalm of Humility
after Psalm 124

If it had not been for the Spirit
who gives me courage
—let me say it—
if it had not been for the Spirit
who gives me words
when my own doubts of relevance
my own reservations of self
my own questions
about my worth
nearly drown me or stop me,
then I would not create,
I would not take the risk
to open my heart.

If it had not been for
others
—let me say it—
who encourage me
support me and remind me
that whatever gift I have
seeks to be used
for the revelation of Beauty
and Love,
for the honor
of the Holy One
here and now,
I would slink away
embarrassed
to ever bare my soul.

How grateful I am to that Spirit
and to each person, whoever
she is, whatever he believes,
who stumbled upon
this page
for sitting here with me,
for catching the bit
of dandelion fluff I blew
from these words
into the Universe
at the Spirit’s nudging,
and for listening with me
to whatever sacred message
these wonderings might reveal.

©  Rosemary McMahan

Photo credit:  Rosemary McMahan

Author: remcmahan

Poet, writer, minister, wanderer, traveler on the way, Light-seeker ~ hoping others will join me on the journey of discovering who we are and were meant to be. You can reach me at 20rosepoet20@gmail.com or at my blog, Spirit-reflections.org.

8 thoughts on “Wednesday, Advent 1: Humility”

  1. From my grateful heart to your courageous one, Rosemary…I thank you for these Advent offerings that are meeting me and nourishing and giving me thoughtful pause right where I am. They are certainly a gift 💝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not to overdo it, but I really am humbled, Dianne. Last week I had no idea what I would write about, or even if I would write. I am thankful for the Spirit who led me to the psalms. And I’m thankful for you.

      Like

  2. Such a powerful reflection for me personally, Rosemary. Two thoughts: how grateful I (and I know others) are that you have responded to the Spirit’s “nudgings”, and a note of what Curtis Almquist, SSJE says about humility in his book, Unwrapping The Twelve Days of Christmas; he uses the phrase, the “practice of hesitation”. I love that too!🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rosemary, your poem brought tears to my eyes. I love the way you framed the words (let Israel/me now say) the way the Bible verses did. So powerful. Thanks, too, for the link to the psalm. I feel inspired today by the last verse: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

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