Imagine a Jewish man praying today’s Psalm, 2008 years ago.
“Lord, let us see your face,” he prays. “O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us.”
But he thinks: “Whatever. No one is going to see God’s face. He’s not going to come to save us. God wants us to tough things out, waiting. The prayer is good in that it builds dependency, but it’s not literal.”
“Once again,” he prays, “O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted,
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.”
But thinks: “The poetry of the Psalmist is beautiful. By the naivete of the Psalmist’s childlike faith, we learn that faith should be humble and directed outside ourselves. But we know that the Lord will not literally protect us with his own right hand. He’s incorporeal. He has no right hand.”
Then imagine he hears about the angels appearing to the shepherds. And the magi coming from afar. And King Herod’s cruelty.
“The shepherds are nuts,” he would think. “The magi are creepy. The King’s actions remind us not to push our faith too hard. It upsets people.”
We pray today, 2008 years later, for God to save us. To protect the family. To preserve the right to life. To bring a new Pentecost to America, as Pope Benedict repeatedly prayed during his visit.
But we think: “God isn’t going to help us. It’s important to pray that he will, and to believe he can, but things are dark and getting darker. We need to keep faith alive in a world where the faith is fading and our most urgent prayers aren’t answered.”
Are we, too, training ourselves to miss out on God’s great action in our lives?
Where is the manger that we’re not noticing today?
— Tom Hoopes