Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent 3 Sunday: Home

Peace to you, as the days grow darker and our Advent candles burn brighter.

Our scripture reading is from Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4 and 10-13, and we're reading the New Revised Standard Version. Ezra was one of the high priests in Jerusalem at the time of the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple.

1:1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: 2 "Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; 4 and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem."

3:1 When the seventh month came, and the Israelites were in the towns, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his kin set out to build the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set up the altar on its foundation, because they were in dread of the neighboring peoples, and they offered burnt offerings upon it to the Lord, morning and evening. 4 And they kept the festival of booths, as prescribed, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the ordinance, as required for each day.

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11 and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel." And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.

Those who wish can click here for instructions for Lectio Divina; you can return for the meditation and the prayer (not to mention the music). 


My 23-year-old daughter, doing an internship for the Big Mouse Corporation down south, recently described attending something that sounded suspiciously like Lessons and Carols. To her delight, it was narrated by a beloved celebrity. At a certain point he told the story of the composition of "Silent Night," and then a choir began to sing. Shortly thereafter the conductor turned to the congregation... I mean, audience.... and motioned for them to join in the singing. "And then," my daughter said to me, a thousand miles away, but sounding so close, "I began to weep."

The longing for home is potent. The situation of the Israelites attempting to return "home" after exile is more similar to someone returning to their Jersey shore neighborhood following hurricane Sandy than one coming home to the same house after a 4 month internship. 

And after the house is rebuilt, then what? Does it ever feel the same? Is there ever the same sense of safety and well-being? 

Yes. No. It's complicated.

Can we sing "For God is good, whose steadfast love endures forever..." at the same time we are weeping because we see what never can be again?

Can we weep and join in the chorus of strangers, each soul vibrating with its particular joyous and wrenching memories, singing "Silent Night"?

Can we live with the tension of our imperfect homes until we are at home in God?


O God of wilderness and exile, you choose to make your home with us. God of homecoming, help us to learn to make our home in you. We pray in the One who made humanity his home. Amen.

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