I’ve been taught many times to start prayers with praising God since this is how the Lord’s Prayer starts. Through my own experience, I’ve learned that when I focus on God’s holiness, “bigness”, faithfulness or other incredible quality at the beginning of a prayer, what I thought I would pray about suddenly changes. My perspective transforms when I realize the one listening to my prayer can still the ocean’s wildest waves. I appreciate this psalm because it starts with a beautiful acknowledgement of who God is. Not only is God greater than any being on earth, He is greater than any being in heaven. So much greater that the heavens praise Him. He is not great and powerful like a dictator (although He has the power to do that if He wanted), but loving and kind like a father. He cares about His people and makes promises to them that He doesn’t break.
God also offers the kind of relationship with His people that allows them to communicate with Him about distressing times. I really appreciate this psalm. It demonstrates that when I praise God for His mightiness and acknowledge His faithfulness, it is okay if I still have something that is causing me to feel cast out, weak, forgotten. I can know that these feelings aren’t because I’m not praying enough or not close enough with God. Instead, I can know those feelings are a part of human life and part of the walk with God. I can know that God is with me always.
Reading these genealogies, I thought about what they may have meant to their original audience. Maybe they made the original readers/hearers feel like they were part of a larger community, a larger family. Imagine seeing your grandfather’s name in the list of names and knowing that the history about to be recorded is your own. Each time God responds to His people in this history, He is responding to your ancestors. In the same way, He will respond to you. How thrilling it must have been for the original audience to realize their close connection to God through a specific family member.
For us today, maybe these genealogies can spur us to unity. Here we see the origins of the “tribes”, Israel and Judah, and also smaller subdivisions such as the Midionites and Tirathites. However, we also see they all came from Adam. We’re all the same tribe. We know not all of the original audience members realized this, as we read about many battles in their history, one tribe against another. Sometimes God used their enmity to bring about His will. No matter what we see happening around us today, we can know that 1. We’re all the same tribe and can love each other as family and 2. There are ugly battles with incomprehensible consequences, but ultimately God is in control. While He is not the cause of the evil that produces the ugliness and pain, we do know that His perfect rule will overcome all of it.
John’s gospel does not start with the birth of Jesus, like the other gospels do. John is less concerned about Jesus’ earthly beginning and instead addresses his eternal beginning, as confusing as that oxy moron is. “In the beginning the Word already existed…” (New Living Translation). Just like God’s love and peace that is already there whenever we come to know it, the Word was already there, already complete, already perfect. This is the Word that created the world, that gave life and light to everything and everyone. It gave such a light that the dark can never extinguish or overcome it. The beginning all started with “Let there be light” and this light was given by the Word.
And then the Word became flesh. A prophet was appointed to declare this miracle, to prepare hearts for the fullness that was coming. The law that came through Moses could not make us complete. The light the Word gave us needs more fuel than the law can provide. It requires the source of the light itself to dwell in us. But how can the Light dwell in us without first coming to us? Especially since we certainly cannot go to the Light of our own accord. So the Word became flesh.
And in the Word’s flesh, we came to know God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. The Word in the flesh revealed God to us. He was the example of God dwelling within, of how God makes the light already in us become a consuming fire that rules us.
Just as the Word already existed in the beginning, so we already have the light of the Word within us. Our enemies and those that irritate us also have this life within them. And through God’s unfailing love and faithfulness, this light becomes what makes us complete, whole, perfect. We already have the light, but we are not yet perfect. We celebrate the light, but we wait for perfection. We experience tension in this worship. It is somber, painful, thoughtful, peaceful, glorious, joyful. The “already” is the deposit that fuels our hope for the “not yet”.
Father, please help me focus on the hope you have given us. On your peace and love that is already there. On the light that is already in everyone. Help me learn more about all of these things this Advent season and for all my days. I love You. You fill me overflowing. All in Your Will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Holy, tender Father. Full of mercy and grace and love. Thank You for the darkness of the night, and for the stars that are always there but also always moving. They help us glimpse Your perspective of time and space and challenge the limits of our own perception. Thank You for the morning light that tenderly and consistently breaks through, and for the sun whose heat touches everything. Nothing can hide from its heat, nothing is out of its reach. Father, sometimes I am in darkness and sometimes I am in daylight and sometimes I have to choose between the two. Help me know that You offer light and life in both places. Help me look to Your light for peace instead of looking to earthly securities, pleasures or pleasing other people. Please teach me about balance, wonder and humility. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Gracious, loving Father. You have come to earth as fire, as a dove, as a man. The light and breath of life became a man, to be born and die and conquer death. The light of life had to face the terror of death? Had to go through the depths of grief? Had to endure temptation, torture, betrayal? Knew family and friends? How could I have taken this for granted before? You made all these aspects of life but yet You are not above experiencing them Yourself, in the way that we experience them.
You direct my steps and rule my words, help me focus my thoughts and clear out my pride so there is room for You. Please… I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father, You have given us so much beauty. It isn’t always time for beauty, there is suffering also, but now is a season of beauty. Each beautiful sight, sound, word, feeling reminds me of Your rest. Beauty transports me to Your rest just like struggle takes me there too. The planets and stars and the universes, the skies and oceans, the forests and deserts, the animals and humans, everything You created has so much beauty that we’re still discovering it. You even allow us to create beautiful things and feel and think beautiful feelings and thoughts. And through living for You, surrendering to You, we even get to be beautiful. Father, in the midst of confusing questions with contradicting answers, there is hope for the answer You will provide. And the answer will be beautiful for its ability to go beyond binary options and instead provide a pursuit worthy of eternity. Thank You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father, You are love. You made us in Your image, creative and able to love. Father, help us choose love. As we search for balance in the tension of all other areas of life, help us realize love never fails, is always in season, is always the correct response. Love is pure, love is truth. It does not shame or blame. It believes the best in people. It does not hide in the face of fear, but it casts out fear. Love is light and love is life. Love is a meaningful purpose for being. Love is the good news. That You, ruler of the universes, looked on us, Your creation, and said “you are my children”. You sent Yourself to save us, You give of Yourself to guide us. We can never understand this love. Our earthly version of love is so powerful already that we give our whole lives in pursuit of it. And this is just a glimpse of how You love us. Thank You. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.