Summary: As we approach Christmas we need to keep asking, "Where does God fit ion?"
“Questions of Christmas: Where Does God Fit In?”
Ps. 80; Mk. 13:32-37
One Christmas season a schoolteacher in England supervised the construction of a manger scene in a corner of her classroom. Her pupils were delighted to set up the model barn and cover the floor with real straw and then arrange the clay figures of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Wise Men, and the animals – all facing a little crib in which a tiny doll represented the infant Jesus. One boy simply could not tear himself away from it. He kept returning to it, and each time he stood there completely engrossed and wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The teacher finally asked him, “Is anything bothering you? Do you have a question to ask? What would you like to know?” With his eyes still glued to the manger scene, the boy said slowly, “What I’d like to know is, where does God fit in?”
As we approach this Christmas – for which decorations and sales began long before Thanksgiving – we need to keep asking “Where does Go fit in?” In fact, as we hear the headlines and listen to the news, “Where does God fit in?” As we make our holiday plans, “Where does God fit in?” With the help of the Psalmist, let’s find an answer.
As the Psalmist looked at the crumbling world around him, he prayed (3), “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” He understood, first of all, that GOD RESTORES HIS PEOPLE. “Restore us, O God.” The immediate context for the Psalmist was that Israel had been ravaged by a foreign power. They were once again dispossessed. So Psalm 80 is A PRAYER FOR THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. We find a similar situation in Isaiah 63 & 64 during another time when Israel was dispossessed, desolate, displaced, and despairing. Listen to the similarities in the prayers. Ps. 80:4-6 – “O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Isaiah 63:17-19 (GNT) - “Why do you let us stray from your ways? Why do you make us so stubborn that we turn away from you? Come back, for the sake of those who serve you, for the sake of the people who have always been yours. We, your holy people, were driven out by our enemies for a little while; they trampled down your sanctuary. You treat us as though you had never been our ruler, as though we had never been your people.” God’s people no longer commanded the respect they once had. Their faith no longer had the appeal it once had. Following God was no longer the exciting event it once was. They knew that God was still their God, but they also recognized that His gracious activity in their lives was lacking. They just were not sure where God fit in.
But as they examined what had happened in their lives both the Psalmist and Isaiah came to a similar conclusion. The Psalmist prayed “Restore us.” The word means “TURN US BACK TO YOU.” Isaiah similarly prayed (64:6-7 GNT): “All of us have been sinful; even our best actions are filthy through and through. Because of our sins we are like leaves that wither and are blown away by the wind. No one turns to you in prayer; no one goes to you for help. You have hidden yourself from us and have abandoned us because of our sins.” Neither prayed “Lord, change our circumstances; alter our captivity.” Rather both prayed “Lord, change us. We are at fault.” They didn’t ask for God to make things better; they asked Him to make them better. Their concern was not with their circumstances but with their character. So they prayed “Lord, restore our souls.”
This should also be A PRAYER FOR US. We have known the feelings; we have drunk the tears of sorrow, felt the pain of defeat and the sting of bitterness. We have experienced times when our faith no longer had the appeal it once had, when following God was no longer the exciting event it once was. We have realized that being Christian is no longer what it used to be; it no longer draws the respect it once had and we have felt like aliens in our own land. We knew that God was still our God, but we also recognized that His gracious activity in our lives was lacking. We just were not sure where God fit in.
Leslie Brandt has wonderfully paraphrased Psalm 80: “We have prayed, O God. We have sung your praises. We have proclaimed your love to the world. But today our power is slipping away, our prestige is wearing thin. People seem to have little respect for us anymore. Those who have been brought up within our structures and have embraced our doctrines are leaving the fold. They say we are no longer meeting their needs and the needs of the world…Great shrines were built in your honor, Lord. Magnificent institutions were established to carry out your purposes. People dedicated their many skills to perpetuate your teachings. Multitudes gathered to declare your praises. Today we are in trouble, Lord. The walls are crumbling. Our sanctuaries no longer attract the masses. People’s skills are dedicated to other purposes. We no longer are making much of an impression on this world of ours.”