Dr Di Rayson captures our collective weariness and longing as we begin our Advent journey in 2020.
On the fifteenth day of Advent, 2020, Miranda Bennett explores the surprising ways that God has been at work as she has faced 2020.
God’s unexpected work
God, you smiled on your good earth!
You brought good times back to Jacob!
You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people,
you put their sins far out of sight.
You took back your sin-provoked threats,
you cooled your hot, righteous anger.
I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say.
God’s about to pronounce his people well,
The holy people he loves so much,
so they’ll never again live like fools.
See how close his salvation is to those who fear him?
Our country is home base for Glory!
Love and Truth meet in the street,
Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!
Truth sprouts green from the ground,
Right Living pours down from the skies!
Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty;
our land responds with Bounty and Blessing.
Right Living strides out before him,
and clears a path for his passage.
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (MSG)
Much of this prayer is quite like the prayers or thoughts you might have had this year. Asking God to pronounce us well amidst this pandemic. As a first year uni student who wanted to meet new people, this year didn’t quite go to plan! Did it for anyone? I have been relatively safe in Lutrawita/Tasmania. However, when witnessing an abundance of suffering globally, I have been left asking “why?” Where are the answers to such questions?
I have come to realise that those who have suffered the most this year are those who were already weary. I think this highlights where we might find God’s work. In an age of misinformation, prayers that “truth sprouts green from the ground” are beginning to be answered. Many truths have been revealed about systemic injustice throughout the year. When our system is under pressure, those who would normally suffer the most; the poor, the elderly, First Nations peoples, people of colour, the homeless and many others who are oppressed become more visible in their suffering. For many of these people this has been the most challenging chapter in an already arduous story. We can find hope in the revelation of these truths and ensure we are speaking truth to power. We can offer forgiveness to those who repent of their role in perpetrating injustice. In doing all this we can rebuild a more equitable system, where “Love and Truth meet in the street”.
As a privileged person, this has manifested as asking for forgiveness from First Nations peoples for my part in an oppressive system. I have learned about listening to and acting alongside First Nations peoples. It has been checking in on my Nana to find out how she is more often. Through these actions, I have heard stories of bravery in the face of fear, strength amidst loneliness and resilience and kindness through suffering. A friend who is in high school told me that after going back to school from online learning everyone was kinder to those they normally didn’t speak to. The most beautiful line of this poetic psalm is the description of a place of glory where “Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss”. We see glimpses of this in kind actions. Kindness is how God’s peace is spoken to us.
The concept of fearing God is confronting in verse 9 because fear doesn’t seem healthy in a loving relationship with God. However, I interpret this term to mean ‘awe’ or ‘always remembering how great God is’. God is often the source of these interactions of kindness and strength during challenging periods. While suffering is often a mystery, I praise God for the pause on my previous ways of thinking, my acceptance of a constantly busy and transactional life (living like a ‘fool’ perhaps?) to realise truth. This is God’s unexpected work. I pray that there is hope and rest for the weary as God the sustainer continues to reveal his truth and we await his further action.
Miranda Bennett is a 19-year-old student, studying Arts/Economics at the University of Tasmania. She grew up in and attends an Anglican church, as well as occasionally attending a Uniting Church. However, Miranda currently does not identify with a specific denomination. Miranda’s favourite subjects are philosophy and politics, complementing her passion for social justice.