Thursday, Advent Week 2: Sustain
The Psalms of Advent, Dec. 8, 2022
Please feel free to light a candle and join me in our reflection on our next Psalm of Advent, Psalm 146, as we receive a vibrant psalm of praise for the Holy One. Verses 5-10 are designated for worship, meditation, and prayer, but the entire psalm is a gift, and the opening verses help illuminate the rest of the psalm:
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD. (New International Version)
This song-poem of praise is the first of the last five psalms in the Book of Psalms included in the group called “The Hallel” because each psalm begins and ends with the word “praise” (Halleluia). Scholarly opinions vary about who actually wrote them, and that question seems unimportant when we hear these full-blown, exquisite, praise songs that include individual, corporate (Israel) and all of creation singing the wonders of the Creator. Read 146 out loud, as psalms are meant to be read, and who wrote them will be the least of your worry.
We could spend at entire Advent season on meaningful words in this psalm, yet the one that invited me in is “sustains”: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” I suspect that is because I, like the entire world, have needed something to sustain me since COVID-19 hit in 2020 and since all the political turmoil here in the States after the presidential election in that same year. I still need sustenance that is much deeper and more faithful than what “princes” (verse 3) can provide.
In the winter of 2020-21, during the lockdowns, I recall how much sustenance the trees gave me. I had never hiked as much as I did that season or that year, and the trees were my faithful companions. In the winter, I noticed, perhaps for the first time, the sleekness of their gray limbs, the elegant composition of their form. Even in the dying season, stripped naked, they stood tall, rooted and reaching.
In the spring, as the trees began to leaf out, the newborn green gave me hope. Birth does happen. Here in the South, spring tends to be a stormy season, often bringing tornados, yet as the wind whirled and whipped these infant leaves, the leaves held on: a lesson for my own experience. In the summer, in full shade, the trees offered steady respite and relief, and in the autumn, as they prepared for death, they gracefully and trustingly let go.
Yes, trees sustained me and I kept going back to Psalm 1: “He (she) is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in due season” (3). The Spirit of God encouraged me to be like a tree, to hold steady, to be grounded, no matter what was/is/ will be going on around me. I am still trying to do so, and I give praise to the Creator of trees as the bare trees offer hope in this dark season once more.
I leave you with a gift from songwriter Carrie Newcomer, a song about letting go and about hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c4mW9MRe-k. I also wonder what gives you sustenance this Advent season. Your reply would be a gift. Blessings ~ Rosemary
Photo credit: Rosemary McMahan