CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 5 by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

January 5 by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the Earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. (vv. 1-2)


Psalm 100 is the final in a series of psalms (95-100) that have been grouped together to celebrate the glorious reign of God over all Heaven and Earth.  Remember that the Psalter is actually a prayer book that editors carefully arranged in order to make it most useful for worship in the temple.  (Other groupings like this include Psalms 113–118, 120–134, and 146–150.)  In some ways, the whole of Psalm 100 has already appeared in the psalms that precede it: make a joyful noise (Psalm 98:4); be glad in the Lord (96:11-12); the invitation to come into God’s presence (95:6, 96:8); we are God’s sheep and are pastured under his care (95:7); give thanks to the Lord (95:2; 97:12); bless God’s name (96:2); God’s mercy endures forever (98:3).  It is as if Psalm 100 takes all of the major sounds already present in the previous songs and, in only a few lines, piles them on top of one another into a single and brilliant chord of praise to God.

Almost for certain, Psalm 100 was meant to be sung as the assembly of worshipers approached the temple in a grand procession of movement, voices, colors (all the priests in their flowing vestments) and sounds (the instruments all present as well).  A liturgical cacophony!  The occasion is as festive as it gets.  What is the ruckus all about?  The people of God are confessing their faith, declaring the truths upon which their entire lives are built: the Lord is God; the Lord made us and we belong to him; the Lord is always good, his mercy and faithfulness never come to an end.  These provide reason enough for the people of God to rejoice in song.  Still, there are not enough voices.  Such an occasion demands everyone’s attendance – make a joyful noise, all the Earth.

I remember chanting this psalm as a child, as part of my tradition’s Sunday morning prayer.  I remember because of an odd turn of phrase in the psalm that always struck me as self-evident: “Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (v. 3)  “Of course I’ll be sure that God is God,” I would think to myself.  “Who else possibly could be?”  And as for making myself?  “Well, that is just ridiculous.  Who in their right mind would think such a thing?”  Decades have gone by since then, and the usual amount of childlike innocence has gone with them.  Now, whenever I come to this verse of the psalm, whatever translation I may be reading, that earlier version comes to mind, and with it, a knowing smile almost always comes to my lips.  I get it now.


From The Fathers

I spoke to all the things that are above me, all that can be admitted by the door of the senses, and I asked, “Since you are not my God, tell me about him.  Tell me something of my God.”  Clear and loud they answered, “God is he who made us.”  I asked these questions simply by gazing at these things, and their beauty was all the answer they gave. (Augustine)

Lord, today I want my voice to be added to this chorus of praise.
There are some things in my life that could silence me—you know them.
And there are some things in my heart, too, that could keep me mute.
But I don’t want any of them, inside or out, to shut me down, or shut me up.
You are God.

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