Advent is the one time of year where the story of God’s plan of redemption wafts out of mall speakers. Even with all of the music about winter and Santa, there is always a chorus of Silent Night that finds its way into the ears of Americans. Psalm 96 asks us to sing, declare, ascribe and worship the Lord for greatness and glory. This psalm’s place in the lectionary asks us to reflect on this song through the lens of the manger. The psalmist commands us to revel in the magnificence of God who entered our world through the glory of the incarnation.
Sing to the Lord a new song (vs. 1)
God deserves a song we have never sung before every single day. We have been saved and the psalmist asks us to proclaim this salvation day after day (vs. 2). God’s plan to fulfill the covenant was a new song to his creation. Jesus’ birth caused the heavens to open up into song from the heavenly realms. Every day is my opportunity to raise a new song that celebrates the enduring glory of God. My song is also to be shared among the nations (vs. 3). Advent is another opportunity to remember the glory of God when he came to earth as a baby. Within this ancient, retold story, however, lies a new birth of God’s glory.
He is to be feared . . .God above all gods (vs. 4)
Psalm 96 focuses on the glory of God in relation to other nations’ gods. Praising God’s glory is an exclusive act. The praises out of our mouths must be singular about the creator God. No other god in any other religion chose to save humanity by coming down to earth as a baby. One of the most amazing things to praise God for is that the ultimate creator of everything also created an incredible plan to save us all. There is no other comparison of our God with other gods. When we go to other nations to declare his deeds (vs. 3) we are declaring that our God is unique and can be compared to no other god.
Write down . . . Glory and strength.(vs. 7-8)
One of the psalmist’s commands is to “ascribe” or write down God’s glory and strength. As the families of nations we need to remember and marinate in the truth of God’s glory. When we bring an offering in the courts of the Lord, we are sacrificing to a God full of power who deserves glory. Remembering God’s strength and past actions creates a security on all of us. We become rooted in who God is instead of the fluctuating opinions of people. One of the offerings that God has given all of us is the birth of Jesus. Any offering we bring into the courts of God does not compare to the offering God gave us. Remembering how strong God is gives us a perspective that we serve a God whose strength can take us through anything. This memory of God helps us for the present quiet moments of our lives.
Worship . . .The splendor of his holiness (vs. 9)
The most glorious thing about God is God’s holiness. We should fall upon our faces because God is holy and never changes. The entirety of God rests upon God’s holy character and we have the privilege of worshipping God. God’s splendor during the advent season occurred in a manger. The creator of all came down the the earth and left the splendor of heaven to bring a little splendor to the stable. The light coming from the manger illuminates the simplicity of God’s plan of redemption. With all of the creation imagery within this Psalm, the splendor of God is obvious from looking around our world. We also must look into the manger from God himself being revealed to our world.
Why? . . . God’s judgement in righteousness (vs. 13)
All of the commands in Psalm 96 leads to the question: Why should we sing, declare, ascribe and worship the Lord? The answer in verse 13 is, “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.” God’s holiness leads to judgement and we need to celebrate that there will be a day of holy judgement. We sing a new song because we know that the God if truth deserves glory, worship and will come to judge the world. Jesus’ birth was the answer of this judgement coming down to earth. Jesus took all of the judgement that we deserve from our sin and paid the ultimate price. If we worship the entirety of who God is, then we have to worship that God brings judgement upon those he created. What is incredible is that the incarnation occurred to break God’s judgement for creation. If we are to be holy like God is holy we have to acknowledge that judgement is a part of the equation. The birth of Jesus shows the true love of God who was born to die for all of us. God’s redemption plan continually pursues humanity and never stops reaching out for us.
This advent is time to sing a new song, declare God’s glory, worship God’s holiness and watch creation praise the Lord. Creation cannot help but bow down to the Lord and sway in the breezes of the glory of God. We have a privilege as Christ followers to write down not only what God has done for us but also give glory to God. The light has come to the world! Sing a new song to Jesus! In the splendor of God, we stand secure and know that we serve a God who chose to come down to earth.
Lead Pastor, Breakwater Church of the Nazarene