Advent Devotion – November 30 – Sheridan Henson

Scripture: Psalm 137:1-6

There is a popular farewell in Jewish circles that is shared with a hopeful spirit by friends parting company: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Despite the founding of the state of Israel in May of 1948 and the ease of modern-day travel, multitudes of Jews living in the Diaspora remain beyond the seas that separate them from their spiritual capital. For most, a one-time pilgrimage to the Western Wall, the “Wailing Wall,” and other parts of the Holy City is the limit to their physical connection to this spiritual epicenter. Most return to their distant homes, careers, families, and lives, and many more never make the journey, choosing to remain at home repeating the same promise as they part company, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

This longsuffering nostalgia for home prevalent in the Diaspora is similar to the longing we find in poor old George Webber, the protagonist of Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again,” where we find an author clinging to the fond memories of a hometown that in reality is far from the recollections of Webber’s written tribute. We too might find ourselves walking the halls of our old high school, college campus, or dusty attic searching for those golden moments inscribed on trophies, smiling in class composites, and buried in cardboard boxes. In our minds, we try to unpack those beautiful, perfect, and happy memories while avoiding the faults, missteps, sorrows, and losses sprinkled in each passing year. Instead, we are reminded that we remain in a world with the flaws and brokenness of Babylon. Our neighbors chant “Make America Great Again,” assuming that we too have selectively remembered this American Promised Land as singularly “Great,” and ignored the centuries of sins mixed with blessings. It is enough to make a psalmist hang his harp upon the willows, isn’t it?

But we do not despair, and we will not forget beautiful Zion. We accept that our world is broken, and we refuse to ignore the pain caused by the past. We find strength and hope in the redemptive power of God’s love, so we chant “Make America Whole,” lift up our harps, and sing because we do not choose to rebuild the temple of our forefathers. Rather, we elect to build a new kingdom far beyond the banks of the Euphrates, and until our work is finished, may we never cease to part in hope and God’s love, saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Core Idea: Even in suffering, we remember the steadfast love of God.

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