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Reflections During Advent: Christmas!

A Psalm of Joy

Psalm 96:14. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

Christmas! Today we celebrate a child born into a world that in many ways is not so different from ours, a world in which wars rage, droughts lead to famine, and corrupt rulers do all they can to cling to earthly power, even to the point of massacring children. But that is only part of the truth. The rest of it is that in the child born in Bethlehem—the child who will grow in wisdom and understanding and later be called the Christ—in that child, the Infinite Divine Creator God and the finite created human being meet.

Christians who read Psalm 96 today might be forgiven for believing that it celebrates that meeting, that birth at Bethlehem. But, according to Walter Brueggemann, even for the psalmist, who wrote centuries before the birth of Jesus, Psalm 96 is a psalm of joy. In Brueggemann’s words, it celebrates the new reality that “the future now belongs to God, not to the feeble idols who are in fact agents of chaos.”[1]

When you can, read Psalm 96. Listen to the invitation to sing a new song—an invitation issued to the whole earth, which of course includes you. Observe how the whole earth joins in—the sea and the field and all that are therein. Even the trees sing for joy.

Wherever you are today, pause and look around you. Let yourself became a psalmist. Whom or what will you invite to sing a new song? Maybe your phone that connects you to friends or loved ones far away, or maybe the cards you’ve received or are still planning to send. If you’re in the kitchen, maybe the pots and pans. If you’re working, maybe the tools of your trade, whatever they are. If you’re in a hospital room or nursing home, maybe the wheelchairs or monitors, the nurses or other staff. If you’re traveling by air, maybe the TSA people or the flight crew or the landing gear. If you’re traveling on the highway, maybe the person keeping the gas station open, or maybe the tires of your car, humming over the asphalt as you move along.

If you’re keeping a journal, make a list of those people, those things. How might they declare God’s glory? What story might they tell of God’s salvation? Jot some of those things down, too. Then write your own new song.

Merry Christmas!

[1] From “The Message of the Psalms” by W. Brueggemann, 1984, p. 144.

Joy to the World, Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Joy to the World, Pentatonix

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