Psalm 148:1-2, 11-14, December 29th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 148, one and two, continuing on with verses eleven thru fourteen.”
1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and women alike, old and young together! 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. 14 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!
“Having heard the words of the Psalmist let us reflect on all the ways we can offer praise to our God!”
Here we are just four days after our annual Christmas celebration and already the countdown till next Christmas has begun! Let me remind you, the year Two Thousand and Twenty is a “Leap Year: so, don’t get ahead of yourselves. There shall be one extra day in the count next year, which starts this coming Wednesday! Truthfully, I pray neither you nor I have ‘actually’ started planning for next Christmas! My gosh, we have not even gotten through the twelve days of Christmas yet! That’s right! Tradition gives us another eight whole days of Christmas! I am of course ‘assuming- that’ Mariana and the choir and their musical accompanists are planning to lead us in the full rendition of that beautiful, although quite lengthy, tune.
(Pause) NO? OH, OK! (Smile!) Well that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of folks do pay homage to this aspect of our Christmas tradition. In fact, I do not believe all our decorations, here in the sanctuary, they will not come down prior to the 5th or 6th of January! Seriously though, I do pray that each of us will continue to celebrate all that Christmas and the birth of the Christ child mean to us, long after the 6th of January!
This brings us to our reading, Psalm 148, which urges us to continue praising God, praising the birth of Christ and all that this means to humankind! Young and old, men, women and children alike; weak or strong, rich or poor, we are all charged to worship and pay tribute to God! /Psalm 148: 11-14/ Praise the King of Kings! Praise the new-born baby named Jesus! Emanuel! God with us! It is clear the Psalmist truly wants us, all of us who are hearing his words, to get ‘really excited’ and hyped up to “Praise God!” Listen to a few of the verses of Psalm 148 which we skipped over this morning. 1 Praise the Messiah! Praise the King of Kings from the heavens; praise God in the heights! “2 Praise the Son of God, all God’s angels; praise the Christ Child, all the heavenly hosts! 3 Praise the Newborn King, sun and moon; praise the name of Jesus, all you shining stars! 4 Praise God, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of Emanuel, for God commanded and they were created. 6 God established them forever and ever; God fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. 7 Praise the ‘God with us’, from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, 8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling God’s command! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” Just imagine hearing the uplifting and poetic voice of the Psalmist as he gave the people of Israel this uplifting rendition of whom ought Praise God!
We have just spent the last month getting ready to celebrate the Birth of the baby Jesus. We have adorned, decorated our sanctuary in preparation. We have had special celebrations, parties and gatherings to mark this joyous time. We have had a Christmas Cantata, which Mariana, her choir and accompanists did such a spectacular job presenting to us. To those who missed this performance, we offer apologies that we were unable to broadcast this performance via social media, due to copywrite concerns. It marked a high point in our on-going celebration. Christmas Eve, with lessons and carols, followed by our ‘candle lighting service’ with ‘Silent Night’ concluding with ‘Joy to the World.’ And yes, thank you for my Christmas Gift, much appreciated. Then after the service some of my family got together to feast while exchanging gifts. Perhaps a great many of you gathered here today did something similar. Or you got together with family and friends on Christmas day, as Lois and I did as well. Indeed, it has been a fantastic, exhilarating, heartening yet exhausting month!
So why, why are we being compelled by the Psalmist to continue to Praise and lift-up our voices to continue paying tribute to our God! Why do we or why ought we applaud God, even after Christmas has passed? Out of gratitude may be the simplest way to answer this thought. Yet, many of us are stuck on the downside of the Christmas High they we are now crashing down from! Why is this happening to some of our friends and family? Perhaps it is because, some of us get caught up in the ‘Commercial aspect’ of Christmas and not the Spiritual, ‘God-Consciousness’ aspect of Christmas. Some of us, therefore, we will need to take a deep breath and sit quietly, stilling our quivering nerves and our tired muscles. Why have we made such a big deal out of Christmas? It is quite simple really. We honor, we celebrate, and we want the new hope that the birth of Christ represents. We want to breath in the peace we still long for. We want to feel the joy that so often seems to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. We need to be refreshed in the unconditional love of God. When we get even a small sense of this, we need to grasp hold of it and savor it and allow that hidden spark, that rekindled glimpse of that elusive sense of gratitude and allow it to burn in our hearts as we lift up our spirits, our very natures, our voices and minds in praise to our Holy God.
How shall we show our admiration for God? With our voices, singing, proclaiming God’s love. So many have been gifted with true gifts, truly angelic voices and some of us have not. Yet, we need not always sing as the angels; rather we can, and we ought to sing with our hearts. James Limburg, a Professor of Old Testament studies, has this to say. “Clearly, praise need not be limited to human words or actions. If our dancing can express praise, why not the dance of the loons on a Minnesota lake? If the sound of the trumpet in Handel’s Messiah can express praise, why not the sound of a trumpeter swan?” We are free to praise God with the gifts and talents our Creator God has given us. You and I, we are like the birds of the air in that we are free to sail through our lives worshiping God – as we give back to creation through the talents, attributes and qualities we have been given. As we approach the upcoming and ensuing days which lead us away from our Christmas celebrations, we can strive to offer others a positive attitude about what ever it is we are engaged in. As we show others respect and an attitude of gratitude for life and the fullness of creation all around us… we are indeed glorifying God!
What, with what shall we give thanks to God? With our whole selves… we are called to applaud God. Some of you, some of us are very creative. Are you creative? Can you write a poem? Some of you are named ‘Wright’, surely you can write a poem. Others of you can find the rhythm in each set of words; causing them to slide from the tip of your tongue… like a skater swaying to the music while they glide across the ice on a frosty – moon – lit night. That is giving praise to God! Some of us can tend a garden so that the roses bloom brightly, and the daffodils smile and sway in the gentle morning air. When you enhance the beauty of Mother Nature you are honoring the kingdom of God. On cool winters night when you build a fire in the firepit in your back yard, using the wood which has fallen during a windswept stormy night, you are reusing and returning to nature the elements of life. This too respects the laws and elements of nature that within and wherein respects the fundementals, the principles of the cycle of life, within which you and I live.
Where can we, you may ask, where can you and I, where can we glorify God? Hans Wiersma, the associate professor of religion proclaims: “Psalm 148 presents us with a utopia of praise: not only all of God’s people (including both traditional and contemporary worship warriors), but all of creation united in praise, exalting the only One worth exalting. Nice.” Everywhere! At home, at church and at school or at our place of employment. When you or I, when we are walking our dog, we can help keep litter from accumulating on the streets upon which we live; caring for the environment in which we live is showing reverence to our Creator God. Where and how you smile or wave to your neighbor, even when they display a plaque or sign, which states and proclaims something which you disagree with, that is where and it is when and it is how you can show another respect for their choices. Jesus always listened to others, even when he disagreed with what they said; therefor why shouldn’t we offer others the same respect, even if we have different opinions on common issues?
When shall we worship God? Morning, noon and night. How shall we praise God? From Augustine’s Expositions on the Psalms, we learn how we ought to worship, exalt and celebrate the God of Christmas, past, present and future! How are we to magnify and exalt the presence of the Living God in our lives today! “Praise (the Living Spirit of Christ) with your whole selves: that is, let not your tongue and voice alone praise God, but your conscience also, your life, your deeds.” May your very heart, now filled with the hope that the Christ Child has brought, cause you to share the peace, the joy and the light of Christ with all those you meet!