The Third Week of Advent: Pronouncements of Pleasant Dreams & Promises

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.” (Psalms 126:1-3)

Advent and Christmas are the seasons of abundance. And with abundance comes joy; especially if that abundance has not been available before. It is the hope and prayer of those who have been restored that the restoration also includes abundance. And abundance has been lost to us, we receive with joy the pronouncement of the coming restoration of abundance.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalms 126:4-6)

When we re-commit ourselves to God, we can expect what had been ours in the past to be ours again. And while abundance is good, and brings joy, the joy that comes from renewing our relationship to God brings greater joy and abundance that does not fade – unless we again wander away from our God. Re-committing ourselves to God might be something we have done many, many . . . many times. And each time God welcomes us back with joy and infuses our spirit with joy!

Then Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
(Luke 1: 46-55)

Mary’s ‘Song’ reminds us of all the wondrous things our Lord has done in the past, and will do in the future. We can depend on this promise that God will undertake for us and not forsake us. It gives us something to hold on to when things seem hard. What is hard to remember, though, as we hear Mary’s ‘Song’ is that these things might not come when we expect them. If while waiting, we have not been patient but have turned away from God hoping for better things else where, then when God’s favor, blessing, mercy, and strength will not be bestowed on us. This is the other lesson of Mary’s ‘Song’ that we have to be patient and stand firm in our commitment and purpose. Advent, the season of waiting, is a good time to learn this lessons as we consider the abundance that God has already given us. May God’s abundance already been present for you, beloved, and may you wait patiently for God to bestow even more of the Lord’s blessings. Selah!

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GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . All that we humans attempt to do and be

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Reference: Jeremiah 17:9-10 )

Sometimes I am not really sure how to take these scriptural excerpts. They seem to come across differently just reading them straight, out of context. When you read them in context surrounded by their neighboring verses a different sense comes across. So, what about this one? Is the heart “deceitful”? [A brief survey of translations shows that the word “heart” is used most often, but there are one or two instances where the word “mind” is used instead.) Well, it depends on the heart, and what you mean by “heart.” If you are taking about emotions, as in human emotions all on their own according to will-full human agendas, yes the “heart” is deceitful. But if you are taking about care and compassion, sensitivity and kind regard, no the heart is not “deceitful.”

The editors of Reading the Anabaptist Bible say that “the Lord searches the human heart and renders judgment” so I guess that would mean that the heart may be deceitful . . . or it may not. The writer of Jeremiah qualifies his statement by saying the Lord looks at the heart and mind, and judges one’s actions. But are not one’s actions motivated by the heart, and by the mind? Isn’t all of that a “package deal”?

In the verses preceding verses 9 to 10 two examples are set up; those who trust in human/mortal flesh, and turns away from God. And those who trust in the Lord and reap the benefits of living within the Lord’s guidance. So how could that faithful-to-God heart be “deceitful”? Or perhaps “deceitful” is not the right/best word. The Hebrew word has the sense of a steep or treacherous hill. Maybe a better way to understand this is that the human heart is inconsistent. It maybe oriented towards God; or it may be ruled by earthly or base agendas. This would makes sense if the Lord is to judge the heart by the actions that it prompts and motivates.

How would God judge your “heart” beloved?