1Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty,
2wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind,
4you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. Psalm 104:1-4
Have you ever listened to Lake Michigan on a night when an east wind is blowing? It’s easy to believe that God is riding on the wings of the wind when the gusts and the waves stir up a turbulence that’s an awesome symphony of sound. Although I long to see the crashing waters, I usually listen to the roaring lake from the safety of my home’s backyard, four blocks away.
Obviously, I’m thinking about the wind because of today’s reading. Hymn writers have borrowed from this psalmist—or at least used the same images—for centuries. We all know the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” While I was researching Psalm 104’s opening verses to write this devotional, I found a hymn using the same tune as “O God, Our Help” (St. Anne) that I’m not sure I’d known of before: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” written by the poet William Cowper about 1773. Cowper may have indeed borrowed from the third verse above for his opening stanza:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
The imagery there is spectacular, don’t you think? You can almost hear the thunder. And it’s even more amazing when you consider the span of time from the writing of Psalm 104, about a thousand years before the birth of Christ, to 1773 and William Cowper, and to today, to us.
And here we are in Advent 2020, only a few days from Christmas. What could be more mysterious than the miracle story of a baby, a baby whose birth brings us hope?
We hear the hope in the wind whispering and howling in the bare branches, even as our landscapes grow cold in winter. We see the hope in the lights that our neighbors place in their bare branches, whether or not we could even find our own Christmas lights this year. We sing of the hope when we are led by Danny in our Zoom services, even though we long to be in the same room to hear our voices together on hymns that were written long ago or not so long ago. And our hopes this year are different from ever before.
God is all around us, in the sounds of the wind, in the glow of the lights, in the sounds of our solo voices, in the work of the scientists who are developing ways to help control and end the pandemic, and so much more. Hope is all around, too.