Saturday, December 12

57The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
58I implore your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
59When I think of your ways, I turn my feet to your decrees;
60I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments.
61Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
62At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous ordinances.
63I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
64The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:57-64

The Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, may be my favorite poet. An activist, cultural critic and artistic wordsmith he writes,

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world![1] 

He conjures for us a world where God’s best intention for all humanity is embodied and where love of God is made manifest in love of neighbor – no matter how different we may seem one from one another. It is a world for which we yearn, even as the plight of refugees drift across our screens and the news reports leaders who herald resistance and barriers.

Today’s text provides us a glimpse of a Psalmist who yearns for a way of life where the Torah is obeyed, where the Mosaic covenant, with its commandments and ordinances and statutes, is followed and where collective piety generates a world where “the earth is full of God’s steadfast love.” The faith of the Psalmist is demonstrated in the practice of keeping covenantal standards as a means of constructing a realm that reflects God’s deepest hope for justice and righteousness.

Yet we who await the coming of Christ are reminded, once again, that Torah obedience is not enough to inaugurate the peaceable kingdom and the Psalmist’s midnight praise of God’s justice and righteousness. The very possibility of Hughes’ dream dwells in the “already but not yet” of the Advent Season. Christ came and Christ comes. This is the promise more reliable than the Psalmist’s or any we might add. Our hope is in the New Covenant where law is written on the heart and faithfulness is possible only by grace. As we rehearse the ancient and immediate narrative of Advent’s promise again this year, let us answer the heralding of Christ in relationships that transgress resistance and break down dividing walls.

A prayer for this day:
God of portions and promises, you provide for us all that is needed and set before us a vision of what is possible. Help us to remember in whom we place our trust and to whom we turn for guidance and endurance. Renew within us, this Advent Season, a passion for faithfulness that arises from the bounty of your grace and a commitment to manifesting your steadfast love in all the earth.  Amen.

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Davis (M. Div., 1991)
Presbyterian College
Clinton, SC


[1] Langston Hughes and Arnold Rampersad, editor. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. (London: Vintage Classics, 1995)

 

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