May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace.
(adapted from Numbers 6:24-27)
When I was a child one of our night time rituals was for my mother to listen to our prayers bedside and then call out to us as she walked out through our bedroom doorway, “May God bless you and keep you, Sweet Molly Malone.” I always thought Molly Malone must be a relative-- a long lost aunt or cousin. It turns out my mother was referencing a girl in a traditional Irish song. It was such a part of nightly ritual that my sisters and I had no idea that she was humming a song as she left our room! What with six kids to bathe and get ready for bed, she must have been humming a tune and dancing a jig as well!
For thousands of years, these words, “May God bless you and keep you,” have comforted God’s people. In the Bible the story goes that when God gave Moses the commandments, a way of life for God’s people, he also gave Moses these words of blessing to give to his brother Aaron, the priest. Aaron was to use these words to bless the people. First, Aaron spoke these words to God’s people, then his priestly heirs spoke them and then the priests and ministers of the Christian church spoke them and on throughout the ages. Today these words are still spoken as benediction at worship and as farewell at bedside.
In a world that seems more inclined to cursing than blessing, we can be a powerful force with our words of blessing. The giving of blessing is a part of who we are as God’s people. Our Protestant tradition upholds the “priesthood of all believers” making us all heirs to the priesthood. The act of giving God’s blessing is a way of for us to be God bearers. We can bless, the ordinary days and experiences of our lives by lifting up our voice to heal, encourage, empower. When the news is bad coming out of Libya, Syria or Wisconsin, we can lift our hand and speak words of blessing to the people there. We can also do it here. Try it when you are cut off in traffic, under a deadline or wondering how you are going to face a situation.
As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving Day, may it be a day rich with blessings and thanksgivings.