Christmas 1 – 26th December 2021
The lectionary readings for first Sunday after Christmas are fascinating. We move quickly from the babe born in a barn to a 12 year old teaching in the Temple. Luke’s story of angels and shepherds suddenly transition to bewildered parents and a determined youth. It is the only insight given us into Jesus’ childhood by the Gospels.
The Word was made flesh: Jesus was God manifested in human form. As a human being, the twelve year old boy Jesus, entered the Temple. Clothed with divine wisdom and supernatural knowledge, the child taught the teachers. Jesus robed himself with human flesh to serve in God’s temple. That temple today is found in you!
The Gospel reading is a response to the Colossians admonition to clothe our inner person with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. It is another contrast to the Christmas story where Christ was wrapped in grave clothes when born.
Contrasted clothing is highlighted again in the lectionary’s Old Testament reading in 1 Samuel. Samuel, the promised firstborn of Hannah, ministered as a boy in the Temple. He wore a linen ephod as if he was born into the priestly family. The little robe was lovingly made by Samuel’s mother and faithfully delivered each year. Between deliveries, Hannah could only hold Samuel in her thoughts and imagine his growth. She would create a new garment, calculating like no one but a mother could, the growth of her son and allow room for another year’s growth before she returns.
But by far, my favourite passage from today’s lectionary readings is Psalm 148. In this Christmas Season, I have chosen to highlight the Psalms. Christmas Eve was Psalm 96, “Strength is Here”. Christmas Day: Psalm 98, “Victory is Here”. Today, from Psalm 148, let us sing God’s praises for Christ’s arrival means, “Glory is Here”!
The lectionary works through our Church Calendar on a 3 year cycle. It is designed for public readings and takes us through the major portions of scripture once every three years. Each year takes us through the journey of Jesus’ story, based on one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and reinforced by John’s Gospel.
What many are not aware of is the 2 year lectionary used for daily prayers. A number of ministers use this and why it is sometimes referred to as the “Office Lectionary”. It allows you read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in that cycle. The readings reflect the seasons and festivals of the Christian year. I won’t go any further in explaining how daily prayers work, however, I do need to mention that the Psalms are given a special place.
And that brings us to Psalm 148.
Psalm 148 is one of the laudate psalms. There are 6 of them and they are used for morning prayers. Every Monday morning, I pray through – sometimes sing through or even chant – Psalm 145. On Tuesdays, Psalm 146. On Wednesday, it is the first 11 verses of 147 which is completed Thursday morning. On Friday, it is Psalm 148. Every Saturday, 149. And of course, this morning and every Sunday, Psalm 150.
The term, laude, is Latin and where laudate is derived. It means “praise” and it is the summary word for how the Book of Psalms closes. They praise God for his creation of the world, and its re-creation through Christ. (Psallam Domino)
Every Friday morning when I read through this Psalm, I get excited. I love the Creation story of Genesis 1. It speaks to me in a way that encourages my daily routine. Having it in poetic form is motivational! And that is what Psalm 148 is: it is Genesis 1 in poetic form.
Psalm 148 invites all creation to God praise. It does it in an order that mirrors the days of creation.
The Opening Days of Creation praise the Lord.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! (Ps 148:1)
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (Gen 1:6)
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. (Ps 148:4, 6)
The Middle Days of Creation praise the Lord.
God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. (Gen 1:16)
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! (Ps 148:3)
So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:21)
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, (Ps 148:7)
The Ending Days of Creation praise the Lord.
God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind[c] in our image, according to our likeness; (Gen 1:25, 26a)
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!Young men and women alike, old and young together! (Ps 148:12)
Now you can see why Psalm 148 is described as Genesis 1 in poetic form. Read in the light of the New Testament, Psalm 148 is a call to praise not just for creation, but more particular for our redemption through the Resurrection of Christ.
And that brings me to the final point of today’s message: this is a glory psalm and why today’s worship service has the theme: “Glory is here!” But before we finish with one last look through Psalm 148, I wanted to share with you “The Secret Formula for Writing a Bestselling Book.: Addison Bevere, in his recent book, made the humorous discovery. Let me read to you his own words.
I recently found, hidden in plain sight, the secret formula for writing a bestselling book. Yes, you read that right. My discovery created a surge of power that I could hardly handle. It felt like learning the winning lottery numbers before the tickets had even been sold. Everything in my life was about to change. Okay, I might’ve overstated a bit. It’s bad form to begin with a lie, so I confess that I didn’t actually find the secret sauce of publishing. But what I did discover is that many of the bestselling books have three things in common—three characteristics that undoubtedly help them climb bestseller lists and empty our wallets.
Because I love books, I’m going to share my findings with you—just in case you want to write a bestseller one day. First, use provocative language in your title—swearing is best. I could give some examples, but you get the idea. Second, write a self-help book. People seem to like learning about themselves and finding ways to make themselves better. Go figure! Third, include something about “the good life” in your title or subtitle.
Those three words grouped together, in that order, seem to have a magical power. After all, isn’t that what we all want? The good life. If the good life could be turned into a product, everyone would want a piece of it. Nothing would be more profitable. Can you imagine selling such a thing? “Get your good life and find everything humankind has wanted since the beginning of time. Adam missed it. Plato couldn’t find it. Nietzsche tried his best to give it words. The good life slipped through their fingers, but today you can have yours for a deal of a price!”
Psalm 148 preserves the best-seller without the cuss words, without self-help, and without finding ways to make you better. Indeed, it preserves the opposite! It is full of praise words of divine help that reveal we are better in Christ. Let us take one more tour through its song.
Notice how it begins from above by encouraging the Hosts of Heaven to praise God.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! (148:1-2)
Also above us is the Universe in which we find. It too is encouraged to praise the Lord.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. (148:3-6)
Now see how the Psalm moves to prompt our planet and its creatures to praise the Lord.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! (148:7-10)
Lastly, see how the Psalm closes by encourage the people who dwell on earth to praise God and especially those people of covenant.
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!Young men and women alike, old and young together!Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD! (148:11-14)
Today is the 2nd Day of Christmas. There are 10 more to go until Epiphany on 6th January. Why not determine this Christmas you will focus on the glory associated with Christ’s Advent? Perhaps this Christmas Season you can determine to read your Bible through from cover to cover in 2022? Maybe you can just find the promised Christmas peace by accepting the gift of Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour?
Whatever you decide to do, go forth with praises to God for “Glory is here!”
Almighty God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
We ask Your blessing on the people watching this video.
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of
your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our
hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You can watch the sermon as part of worship service on our YouTube Channel here.