December 15 / Second Saturday of Advent
Once again, O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted.
~ Psalm 80:15-16
The act of planting a garden, like the act of getting married, is the easier part: It’s the small daily acts of caring over the long haul that can be a challenge. Relationships, and gardens, need consistent attention and love in order to survive, let alone flourish. There are all sorts of external and internal threats to both, among them dryness, blight, weeds, rot and invasive pests (no analogy to children intended). In today’s psalm, it appears that God has been a neglectful gardener and has abandoned the vine he once planted. (The verses that precede the lectionary excerpt vividly depict the spoliation of the once-lush vineyard by wild boars and creatures of the field, in this case a metaphor for the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of its people in the Babylonian exile.) Whether we believe we deserve it or not, sometimes it can feel as if God has abandoned us. For one reason or another—a bad decision, a misstep at work, a relationship that goes off track—our lives start to fall apart and misfortunes gnaw at us like those wild boars. The psalmist reminds us today that the proper response to those feelings of desolation is to cry out to God. We need not be shy about calling for help: Our poet deploys no fewer than four imperatives in these two verses, begging God to pay attention—“Look down,” he begs, and “see,”—and to act, to “take care” of this living thing, and “protect” it. It is God who gave us life, and God who can rejuvenate us when we are at risk of withering and dying on the vine. But first, we must ask.
O Lord of all the earth and every living thing, revive our spirits and strengthen our faith when we falter and grow weak.Amen.