Psalm 80:1-3, 14-19 | December 20, 2021
A Sorrowful Prayer
by Emily Tuck
Psalm 80 begins by addressing God as the shepherd of Israel. It reminds us of our beloved Psalm 23 that affirms that the Lord is our shepherd. We are comfortable with this image of God as the caring shepherd who tends his flock.
At the writing of this Psalm, Israel had been through a difficult time in her history. This Psalm, often called a sorrowful prayer, offered urgent pleas to God to hear their prayers. Phrases like “give ear, “shine forth, “stir up,” and “restore us” tell us they had been through a time when they felt God was absent, inattentive. They were longing for restoration.
We, too, understand the pleas of a sorrowful prayer. In the years of a global pandemic, we have witnessed illness and death in a greater proportion than we ever imagined. The alienation and isolation needed for our protection and safety have rendered us at times hopelessly adrift and sometimes numb. We, too, long for restoration.
As we make our way through this Advent season, we look forward to reading again the birth narrative that reminds us of the shepherds who visited Jesus and the holy family in Bethlehem. How poignant that these caretakers of simple animals are featured in the birth of our Savior. But then it is the Savior himself who defines himself by saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” We recognize this image and are comforted by it. At last, we know the source of our restoration—the one whose birth we celebrate.
Advent gives us reason to pray with hope.
Prayer: Tender shepherd, help us each to keep our gaze on you and to follow as you lead us through all our life’s journeys.