“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music… ” – Psalm 98:4
Today is the day after the third Sunday of advent – a day in the church calendar in which we celebrate the Joy of Christ entering the world. One of the most joyful psalms is 98. You may not know the NIV or The Message version off by heart, but I guarantee you know Isaac Watt’s version of Psalm 98. He wrote a book of poetry published 300 years ago in which he re-worked each Psalm of David from a New Testament perspective. The words were then taken up over 100 years later and arranged into a song (the arranger, Lowell Mason, took words of Isaac Watts and music by George Handel, released it at Christmas time, and the mashup is the most published Christmas Carol of the late 20th Century):
Joy to the World, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing.
So if today is the day to reflect on Joy, and Psalm 98:4 implores us to do it, maybe it’s a good time for each of us to reflect - When is the last time you burst into jubilant song?
Throughout the Christmas narrative there is a fair bit of jubilant and spontaneous songs being written down for us. In Luke 1:46 Mary visits her relative Elizabeth and receives a pretty awesome word of encouragement / prophesy from her (“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”) and in response she sings: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”… [aside - she goes on to say “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful..” which is an echo of Psalm 98:3, isn’t that cool].
Zechariah also is filled with the spirit and prophesies with a song at the birth of his long-awaited son: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68).
But the song I hope to hear one day happens right after the angel of the Lord has told the shepherds that there is good news that will cause great joy for all the people. The angel explains that the Saviour of the world has just been born and where to find him. Then it says “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14). Now that’s what I call bursting into jubilant song. It’s like a heavenly flash mob!
Psalm 98 also encourages us to “sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (v1). What marvellous things has God being doing in your life and in your world in 2019? I’m reminded of the line from a Matt Redman song: “Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise”. Can you think of three things marvellous things that God has done this year that you can praise him for today? Make it into a new song of praise!
On this day in advent, my prayer is that all of us will burst into jubilant song more often - not just for what God has done 2000+ years ago in sending Jesus to earth, and for all He accomplished, but also for what God is doing and will do as we continue walking with Him and trusting Him into 2020.
Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
Rebecca lives in Sydney with her husband, Graham, and 2 kids. She loves to worship, drink coffee, connect with people, laugh out loud and learn new things. She has a PhD in music cognition, where she looked at what is going on in the brain when people imagine music.