CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 1 by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

January 1 by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 147

It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. (v. 1)

When the people of Israel drew near to the end of their journey in the wilderness, Moses prepared them for what lay ahead by reminding them of what had brought them to this point.  After generations of slavery in Egypt, they were not a free people, great in number and filled with promise.  They carried with them the wealth of their oppressors and stood on the verge of possessing the land promised to their fathers.  Lest they succumb to thinking that their own hand had accomplished their deliverance, Moses reminded them of the true reason for their good fortune: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you, and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers,” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

One can hear the echo of Moses’s words in the verses of Psalm 147.  The second of the final five psalms of the Psalter – called the Praise Psalms because each begins and ends with the same jubilant shout, “Praise the Lord!”  (Hallelujah!) – Psalm 147 reminds the people both of their humble roots and of their great destiny.  A people who have been made by God’s hand, healed by God’s mercy, and preserved by God’s power have nothing to boast of in themselves.  Praising God is one of the surest correctives to human pride.  With both hands lifted to God, there isn’t one left to pat yourself on the back.

The psalmist summons praise for the God whose power is most gloriously revealed in his love.  He calls each lofty star by its own name, (v. 4); he attends to each downtrodden soul.  The outcasts, the brokenhearted, the wounded, all find their appointed place within God’s gathered house, (vv. 2-6).  Creation’s highest and lowest are assured of the Lord’s care.  It is not worthiness but weakness that brings down the love of God from the heavens.  And this is an enduring truth for which God’s praises should always be sung because God and people look at power differently.  The psalmist recognizes that it is tempting to place your security in physical might and human strength, (v. 10), and these are of no importance from God’s point of view.  The Strongest force in all the universe is the mercy of God, and those who place their trust in that power will always be giving thanks.

From The Fathers

“Who heals the contrite of heart, who binds up their wounds.”  A wonderful mode of healing is announced, so that if we wish to be restored we must make ourselves contrite in a most vigorous way.  This contrition, however, is aimed at renewal and leads to full recovery; what transcends every blessing, it admits the Physician who grants eternal health.  The Heavenly Physician treats the hearts of penitents when they are battered with heavy affliction.  He binds and strengthens them by wrapping them with the bandage of his devoted love, and impels them to the strongest hope of recovery. (Cassiodorus)

Lord, you know the wounds in my heart,
(Most of them self-inflicted),
All of them from that fall.
But here I am, standing up and walking again.
So a song of praise seems like just the right thing.

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