ADVENT PRAYER: First Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

First Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 33

Our soul waits for the Lord. (v. 20)

The first word of Psalm 33 is one of six words for “praise” used by the author of this song.  It first appears in scripture in the book of Leviticus to describe the response of the Jewish assembly when the fire of God came down from Heaven and consumed the offerings made by Moses and Aaron in the tent of meeting.  When all the people saw the glory of the Lord unexpectedly appearing in this way, “they shouted for joy and fell facedown,” (Leviticus 9:24).  This was a spontaneous cry of rejoicing, elicited by an extraordinarily dramatic sign of God’s presence come among them.

Psalm 33 is a call to praise and worship.  Unlike many psalms that were written in connection with specific circumstances, this psalm has a more general character.  God’s unwavering qualities of creative power, just rule, and loyal love are reason enough to shout for joy, as the psalmist says.  Still, there are hints in verses 16 through 19 that all is not sweetness and light.  There is a suggestion that war may be at hand, and with it the possibility of famine and death.  It seems unlikely that the psalmist would write about hoping in God’s deliverance unless there was some need of it: “Our soul waits for the Lord, our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name,” (Psalm 33:20-21).  These are the words of people who sing to God, even while they look for help – who rejoice, even while they wait.  Psalm 33 makes partners of patience and praise.

So, while they wait, the people sing, for, in all of creation and through all of history, they discern the life-giving hand of God at work – “the Earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” (v. 5).  So full, it seems that the Earth cannot contain it all and joy bursts forth into a “new song” of praise to God.  This is the first time in the Bible that the phrase “new song” appears.  Together with only a few other occasions (notably Psalms 96, 98, and 149), it heralds the wondrous sound to be heard in Heaven, when the saints are gathered around the Lamb, when all rejoicing will be full and all waiting will be over: “I heard a voice from Heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne,” (Revelation 14:2-3).

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,” (John 1:14).  With these words, the Gospel of John describes the supremely extraordinary appearance of God’s glory coming to fill all the Earth – the incarnation of his only Son, Jesus Christ.  The fire of God’s love was ignited in the womb of a virgin, and there kindled a flame intended to enlighten the hearts of all people.  A cry of rejoicing is certainly a fitting response, even as we wait for that fire to come again.  If I need a new visitation from the Almighty, if I look for a fresh appearance of his love – as I most certainly do every Advent – then Psalm 33 reminds me that my heart can (and must) rejoice, even as my soul waits.

From The Fathers

Strip off your oldness; you know a new song.  A new person, a New Covenant, a new song.  People stuck in the old life have no business with this new song; only those who are new persons can learn it, renewed by grace and throwing off the old, sharers in the Kingdom of Heaven.  All our love yearns toward that kingdom, and in its longing our life sings a new song.  Let us sing this song not only with our tongues, but with our lives. (Augustine)

Re-tune my heart again, Lord to the angels’ key, and not my own.
Correct its tones, adjust its pitches, change its temperament,—all by Heaven’s eternal “A.”
While I wait, re-tune my heart again, Lord.
Today’s song should be new.

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