Advent Psalm reading for December 14, 15, 16, & 17: Psalm 126.
Psalm 126 carries a message of hope for renewal. In Advent, this is a comforting reflection in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s faithful act of compassion. It has happened already, but each Advent, we wait anew. In our waiting, we make space to acknowledge our needs.
A Song of Hope
Psalm 126 is a song of ascents, a psalm written to be sung in the community during pilgrimage to the temple. In this psalm, the people imagine a time when sorrow is gone, suffering has ended, and their hearts are filled with joy. This psalm of praise is an uplifting liturgy that reminds God’s people that their hope and strength is in the Lord.
A song of ascents.
When the LORD restores the fortunes of Zion
—we see it as in a dream—
our mouths shall be filled with laughter,
our tongues, with songs of joy.
Then shall they say among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them!”
The LORD will do great things for us
and we shall rejoice.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like watercourses in the Negeb.
In this spirit of thanksgiving and wonder, God’s people rejoice in the things they cannot yet see, displaying a tremendous trust in God’s promises. The ancient Israelites were a nation of nomadic people who settled in a small part of the ancient Levant region. They were heavily dependent on good weather and fertile soil to raise crops and care for animals. Agriculture can be a tedious business, and one bad year can devastate an entire dependent community. The resilience in this psalm is an incredible testimony to a grounded faith.
Tears of Sorrow; Songs of Joy
The final two verses demonstrate a deep sense of lament. It seems like such a contrast to think about sowing in tears in a song about hope and restoration.
They who sow in tears
shall reap with songs of joy.
Though he goes along weeping,
carrying the seed-bag,
he shall come back with songs of joy,
carrying his sheaves.
When I was growing up in a Christian church, we sang songs about being happy, and preachers spoke about how our testimony as Christians should be supported by the evidence of joy in our lives. There was no room for grief and lament in this version of faith. However, I have discovered in years of reading and studying scriptures that grief, lament, and sadness are essential emotional experiences. Oftentimes, joy can only be found when one recognizes the potential for loss. And a marginalized people group knows loss. What an incredible testimony it is to believe that tears will sow seeds that blossom into joy.
Comfort in Advent
In this reflection on Psalm 126, I am reminded that true joy often emerges from recognizing and understanding loss. As we move forward in our Advent journey, may we find comfort in the knowledge that God’s compassionate acts are both a historical truth and an ongoing promise. In the spirit of this Psalm, let us hold onto the hope that our current trials and tribulations are not the end but a pathway to a joyous reunion, much like the Israelites’ hopeful pilgrimage and the world’s anticipatory wait for the Messiah.
Coming Up on An Advent Psalm Reflection
In the next reflection, I will read Psalm 126 alongside Habakkuk.
This entire series and a link to the liturgical readings on the Advent Psalm Reflections page.
*The translations are JPS from Sefaria.org
Dr. Erica Mongé-Greer, holding a PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, is a distinguished researcher and educator specializing in Biblical Ethics, Mythopoeia, and Resistance Theory. Her work focuses on justice in ancient religious texts, notably reinterpreting Psalm 82’s ethics in the Hebrew Bible, with her findings currently under peer review.
In addition to her academic research, Dr. Mongé-Greer is an experienced University instructor, having taught various biblical studies courses. Her teaching philosophy integrates theoretical discussions with practical insights, promoting an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.
Her ongoing projects include a book on religious themes in the series Battlestar Galactica and further research in biblical ethics, showcasing her dedication to interdisciplinary studies that blend religion with contemporary issues.