Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:7)
This is truly a year that we may enter more fully into the Advent season with deep empathy and connection to those awaiting the birth of Jesus who is the Messiah. The voices of the Psalmists and the Prophets should ring more clearly in our ears, in our minds, and in our hearts. Most of those people lived lives of daily desperation – hungry, dirty, poor, ill, fearful, and oppressed. Their reality might not have been COVID-19 and our reality might not be powerless abject poverty, but we both stand in need of a Savior.
In the days preceding the birth of Jesus, most people held a simple belief: if times were good, God was pleased, but if times were hard, God was punishing the people. I don’t think too many of us today believe that the global pandemic is a punishment from God, but we do feel tested in our faith. We all feel the loss and pain of not being together, but we rejoice in the opportunity to keep each other safe, and through all of our modern conveniences and technologies, we can be together across long distances, even when we cannot gather face-to-face. God is so good to us!
And yet, and yet, we so want this trying time to end. We want to greet each other with handshakes and hugs and kisses. We want to sit face to face and chat, to laugh, to sing, even to pray! We shout out with the Psalmist, “Restore us, O God of hosts!” We long so much for the things we took for granted just one year ago. And perhaps this is God’s gift to us as we enter Advent: to never take for granted the closeness, the nearness, the comfort of our relationships and fellowship.
Prayer: “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Let the cloud of darkness and separation be dispelled by your glory and your power, that we might safely be together once more. Strengthen us that we might not think selfishly of what we miss personally, but fill us with resolve to do all in our power to honor and worship you in the way we keep each other safe and healthy. And prepare us for the day of return and celebration when we can be one body as well as in voice and spirit. Prepare us for the arrival of the Christ so that we might be strengthened in our time apart. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).