Friday in the third week of Advent: Have mercy on me, O God

It isn’t very fashionable to speak of Advent as a penitential season these days, but that is certainly a part of its character. Don’t agree? Check out the lections for the Sundays and weekdays of Advent. It’s not all hope and joy; these notions are accompanied by longing, sorrow, repentance, and self-renewal. I enter today’s evening psalm into evidence to support my case.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
and sinners shall return to you.

Deliver me from death, O God, *
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.

Open my lips, O Lord, *
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Be favorable and gracious to Zion, *
and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will be pleased with the appointed sacrifices, with burnt-offerings and oblations; *
then shall they offer young bullocks upon your altar.

If you are looking for a musical setting for this psalm, there’s really only one place to begin.

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