Christmas 2 – 2nd January 2022
2021 is now history. Our calendar in the West began a new year yesterday. However, the sacred calendar is already moving toward its 3rd Season. Advent has past and Epiphany draws near. It begins 6th January. Our readings today are for the last Sunday of Christmas.
As you are now aware, I have chosen the Psalms for sermon themes throughout Christmas. They are building upon Advent’s theme and preparing us for Epiphany Sunday next week. That means today’s sermon text is inspired by the last half of Psalm 147. The text inspired the theme: Provision is Here.
Psalm 147 along with Psalm 148 which we read last week, is part of the great doxology ending the Book of Psalms. The last 5 chapters in the book, share numerous similarities. Each of them begin and end with Hallelujah. Hallelujah is the Hebrew word that translates into English as “praise the Lord”.
Every one of the Psalms 146-150 have phrases and patterns of imagery that are repeated through their songs. For instance, Psalm 146:10 has an address to Zion that is picked up in 147 verse 2 and 147:10, part of today’s sermon text. It is referenced again in 149:2 and the location of Psalm 150 in the sanctuary (verse 1).
Poetry and Perspective
The Psalms are more than just historic pieces of poetry. Their subject goes beyond Israel in time past. There are applications to the Church and to your life today. But you may need to change your perspective to appreciate the spiritual applications of today’s psalm.
On a cold January day, a forty-three-year-old man was sworn in as the chief executive of his country. By his side stood his predecessor, a famous general who, fifteen years earlier, had commanded his nation’s armed forces in a war that resulted in the defeat of Germany. The young leader was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. He spent the next five hours watching parades in his honour and stayed up celebrating until three o’clock in the morning.
You know who I’m describing, right? It’s January 30, 1933, and I’m describing Adolf Hitler and not, as most people would assume, John F. Kennedy. The point is, we make assumptions. We make assumptions about the world around us based on sometimes incomplete or false information. In this case, the information I offered was incomplete. Many of you were convinced that I was describing John F. Kennedy until I added one minor little detail: the date. This is important because our behaviour is affected by our assumptions or our perceived truths.
We make decisions based on what we think we know. It wasn’t too long ago that the majority of people believed the world was flat. This perceived truth impacted behaviour. During this period, there was very little exploration. People feared that if they traveled too far they might fall off the edge of the earth. So for the most part they stayed put. It wasn’t until that minor detail was revealed—the world is round—that behaviours changed on a massive scale.Simon Sinek, Start with Why, Penguin Publishing Group
I hope you can look at today’s Psalm with different information. Psalm 147:12-20 is like a catalogue of why our Lord is worthy to be praised. There are 3 themes in this Psalm that could look different if you were willing to receive more information: Jerusalem, Nature, and Word.
Jerusalem – Old and New
Verses 12 and 13 immediately draw our attention to Jerusalem. We understand the historic context to mean the time when Jerusalem had to be rebuilt.
When you read through your Bible in the new year, you discover how God’s covenant with Adam was renewed with Noah, and then specified in Abraham with a related covenant promised to David. You will discover Isreal as a nation representative of God’s work among nations, families, and peoples.
As you proceed through the stories, Israel became the designated people through whom God would use as an example for all nations. In other words, the Law was not intended just for Israel. Its precepts and principles were intended for all peoples. Israel was just the designated example.
And that is why it is so sad that they ignored God and his precious word. You will read of their fall. You will see they are captured and transported to other countries. They are dispersed throughout the world.
But then, the covenants made by God are binding. After due punishment and time-out, God restored Israel to Jerusalem, the city of peace. This Psalm is usually understood to represent that time period – the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was written in celebration of Jerusalem being rebuilt.
But how can we find meaning for us today while staying faithful to scripture interpretation? We read the Psalm with application of New Testament understanding! The resurrected Jesus taught that the Psalms speak of him. We look for a connection of our Lord in the Psalms and we find meaning for today.
The New Testament ends with a narrative about a New Jerusalem. It is a city built by the Master Carpenter for the Church. It is the home prepared for a Bride. When we read about Old Jerusalem in the Psalms, we have every right to make application to the New Jerusalem. The promise of God providing a place of peace under God’s protection is worth of praise. An it is a promise just as real for us today in 2022 as it was for the Jews centuries before Christ was born.
Nature – Random or Intentional?
In Psalm 147:14-18, God’s power in nature is presented as a pledge of His power to help His people. Many find such teaching difficult to grasp. Without a personal relationship with God, you are left with a view of Nature that is random. Nature is personified to explain its relationship with the planet and earth’s inhabitants. Secular religion promotes personal devotion to one’s Self to find meaning in a person-less Universe. Christianity promotes public praise of the Creator who is intentional in his relationships.
salon.com is an American progressive/liberal news and opinion website that covers politics, entertainment, culture, and technology. I was interested when I read about an interview they had with Francis Collins.
Francis Collins is the American geneticist who discovered genes causing genetic diseases. His landmark discoveries enabled his leadership of the International Human Genome Project. That was the project that completed the first ever sequence of the human DNA instruction book!
After that, he became the USA’s 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was appointed by President Obama, asked by President Trump to stay on, and again asked by President Biden. He is the only presidentially appointed NIH Director to serve more than one administration. After all his work with Covid response in America, he finally stepped back two weeks ago (19 December 2021).
During Collins’ career, he journeyed from Atheism to Christianity which was preserved in a book he wrote titled: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. In his book, Collins argues that advances in science present “an opportunity for worship,” rather than a catalyst for doubt. Here is an excerpt from the Salon.com interview.
It is all a matter of perspective! And if you have a different perspective, today’s Psalm becomes very real in our everyday lives.
In spite of the fact that it may seem that we as a culture are coming to the end of a vision for what the church is and does in our world, I think the Scriptures reminds us that God is not finished with us yet. In order to hold on to this hope, we need the vision of Jesus for God’s realm of peace and justice and freedom that is already working in this world to make all things new.Alan Brehm (2015)
Word – Understandable but Misunderstood
The closing verses of Psalm 147 present a paradox. God’s word has been openly given. It has been clearly defined. It has been publicly enforced. It is understandable. And yet is is so misunderstood!
I find it fascinating how newer translations often render God’s Law as “rules”. Rules belong to footy and other sports, not society. The concept of law is fast disappearing in Western society. Open defiance of law is now promoted as moral. In the name of social justice, injustice is committed.
The church is not a community of sameness but of different peoples and cultures, of multi-giftedness, and of different forms of call and service. These differences result in unity rather than fragmentation, just as different musical instruments combine to form a symphony rather than a cacophony.James R. Edwards, From Christ to Christianity (2021)
The Psalm indicates that only God’s people actually understand and embrace God’s statutes and ordinances. Jesus plainly stated, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When you love God’s words and scriptures becomes a source of peace instead of contention, you learn that There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love (1 John 4:18).
God’s people of covenant in the Old Testament misunderstood and misapplied God’s word. God then sent Word in flesh who taught how to understand the Law. That is how we have come to possess a New Testament. God’s word is understood through the person of Jesus Christ. As the familiar adage goes, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
At some point in your life, you probably made a New Year’s resolution. On January 1 of some year, you resolved to drink less, exercise more, or call your mother every Sunday. Maybe you kept your resolution and rectified your health and family relations. Or maybe, by February, you were pasted on the couch watching Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit on Netflix while downing a third glass of wine and ducking Mom’s Skype requests.
Regardless of your resolution’s fate, though, the date you chose to motivate yourself reveals another dimension of the power of beginnings. The first day of the year is what social scientists call a “temporal landmark.” Just as human beings rely on landmarks to navigate space—“To get to my house, turn left at the Shell station”—we also use landmarks to navigate time. Certain dates function like that Shell station. They stand out from the ceaseless and forgettable march of other days, and their prominence helps us find our way.
…To establish a fresh start, people used two types of temporal landmarks—social and personal. The social landmarks were those that everyone shared: Mondays, the beginning of a new month, national holidays. The personal ones were unique to the individual: birthdays, anniversaries, job changes. But whether social or personal, these time markers served two purposes. First, they allowed people to open “new mental accounts” in the same way that a business closes the books at the end of one fiscal year and opens a fresh ledger for the new year.Daniel H. Pink
It is time to march forth into 2022. 2021 has left many of us apprehensive. Let us realise that all we need is found in God’s word. God’s word is living. God’s word is personal. Christ is God’s word. Provision is here!
you have redeemed us through Jesus Christ,
the first-born of all creation,
whose birth we celebrate as the child of Bethlehem.
Bless us with every spiritual blessing,
that we may live as your adopted children
and witness to your glory
with unending praise and thanksgiving. Amen.
You can watch the sermon as part of worship service on our YouTube Channel here.