Psalms 96, 97, 98 - A new song

1) O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2) Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3) Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
4) For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
Psalm 96 (NRSV)
Christmas Eve

1) The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
6) The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
7) All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
8) Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
9) For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10) The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful...
Psalm 97 (NRSV)
Christmas Morn

1) O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
4) Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
8) Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9) at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
10) He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Psalm 98 (NRSV)
Christmas Day

About the liturgical context for Christmas...

These three successive psalms - 96, 97, and 98 - are appointed for reading in worship Christmas Eve, Christmas Morn, and Christmas Day. They fit together, repeating the same themes and phrases.
  • "O sing to the Lord a new song" (96:1, 98:1)
  • Heaven (96:11, 97:6) and earth (96:1, 11-12, 97:1, 98:4) rejoice
  • The Lord is King (96:10, 97:1)
  • The Lord is victorious (97:3, 98:1-2)
  • The Lord conquers idols (96:5, 97:7)
  • The Lord is coming to judge the earth (96:13, 98:9)
As the Church celebrates the birthday of its Messiah, these psalms speak of the majesty, power, and reign of God. The Savior's coming into the world is an occasion for extravagant praise, and the Church, like angels, shepherds, and magi, imaginatively, kneeling at the manger, in adoration and honor to the innocent King.

The Church is so used to praising its Lord that sometimes it might not even pay attention to the words, knowing the outcome. But even when there is real depth behind the "I love you"s, the wise will be attentive to the hows and whats and whys.

While we appreciate hearing "I love you," from our beloveds, we like to know some of the specifics as well. I appreciate that you hold the door open for me. I'm thankful for the ways you take care of me. You remembered!

And the act of enunciating how we love someone helps us understand that love a little better, and hold it more closely.

When we reflect on God's love, we may think of it as steadfast, enduring, faithful, eternal. And the Bible tells us so.

But while the fact of love may be rock-solid, the face of love, the expression of love is not static. Love cherishes and respects where we have been. But love also sings new songs.

The Hebrew scriptures tell us over and over again of God's persistent involvement with the world. But God's word, God's love, looks different in Genesis than in Exodus, is expressed differently in the Law and by the Prophets, is heard
differently by Abraham, by Rachel, by David, by Ahab, by Ruth.

And then there is the new song of Mary and of Jesus. We hear so many cords and echoes of the ancient hallowed songs. Yet Mary's words of the poor being exalted and the mighty cast down, seems to be in a new key. And Jesus - from his stable birth, to his profligate healing, to his radical, counter-imperial sharing of life and bread - sing God's love in an outpouring of life and life made new.

God's good news always finds welcome from those in need.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!


Credits:
Photographer unknown. Horizon, mountain, clouds. Public domain (CC0 1.0).
Artist unknown, Hallelujah.

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