The message at the heart of Epiphany is that God shows up. And where does God show up? In a podunk village, among a peasant family, in the company of roughneck shepherds and smelly livestock, and not in Herod’s palace. In a manger, not on a throne.
Many of our political leaders these days find themselves as empty-handed as the foolish bridesmaids and as stubborn as Amos’ people. They wait passively for God to sort out problems to which their actions and inactions have contributed. When tragedy strikes, they’re quick to offer “thoughts and prayers,” but slow to do anything constructive.
Sometimes we crave the grounding of a hallelujah—and this is the key—not to escape our problems or to wash our hands of our responsibility to live as God’s loving, generous, justice-seeking people, but to remember our place in the world. We need to praise so that we can remember who we are, whose we are, and what is within and outside of our control.
Not only are the psalms of lament raw and intimate in their honesty, but it’s significant that they made it into the Psalter, the official prayerbook/hymnal of Jerusalem’s Temple, and later into the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. They’re meant to be read and heard. They’re meant to be prayed. Lament is an old practice from a culture a world away, but it’s supposed to become ours, too.