Christmas: Let The World Rejoice!

The Lectionary prescribes three Psalms for Christmas: Psalms 96, 97, and 98. They are remarkable pieces of ancient poetry and they have several themes in common that help us understand Christmas.

All three focus on the Lord’s victory over evil. For example: “proclaim the good news of his salvation” (96:2) “A fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side” (97:3) and “With his right hand and his holy arm has he won for himself the victory” (98:2). The coming of the Son of God as the Son of Man means the end of Satan’s deathly and deceptive sway over humanity. The true King of Creation has been born and he will drive out the false god of this world.

All three call us to worship. For example: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1) “Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous” (97:12) and “lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing” (98:5). The birth of the Word of God as the man Jesus Christ calls us to worship, celebration, and song. In fact, the Lectionary provides three sets of scripture readings for the Nativity of the Lord because it is based on the assumption that we will gather for worship on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What else would the Church be doing? As a holy priesthood in Christ (1 Peter 2:5) we join with the heavenly chorus of angels to proclaim the Savior’s birth.

All three call all of humanity, and the whole creation to worship. For example: “Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honor and power” (96:7) “let the earth rejoice” (97:1) and “Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands” (98:5). The Creator’s entrance into his creation as the Last Adam, who undoes the sin of humanity and makes the whole creation new, is an event that calls heaven and earth, the sea and the mountains, and the whole of humanity to shout for joy and sing with praise.

In the birth of Jesus we see that the plan of God is moving forward. Evil is being conquered, the Kingdom is growing, and one day the heavens, the earth, and all people will be raised up in the newness of resurrected life because of who Jesus is. For now, in this time between his first and second Advent, we do not yet see all people praising him or the whole earth rejoicing at his presence. But the ancient words of his servant Israel, preserved in Psalms 96-98, remind us to never give up hope, love, joy, or peace, because the Lord of hope, who is Love, and whose Spirit is Joy – the one who is the King of Peace – has been born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and in his birth the rebirth of the whole cosmos has begun.

~ Jonathan Stepp

2 comments so far

  1. Gillian Valentine on

    Wow! I just went back over some older emails and read this…it’s truly beautiful, and full of the hope we have in Jesus! Thank you, Pastor Jonathan!


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