In many churches, Psalm 96 is read on Christmas Eve, for example midnight mass, while the next two psalms are listed for the great day itself.
Psalm 97 uses fiery image to proclaim God’s sovereignty.
Psalm 98 is a burst of joy:
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. … All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to God with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. (Ps. 98:1-5)
Last time we sang Psalm 98, it was to a jazz-inspired 12-bar piano blues. There were, I admit, a few surprised looks; perhaps it was pushing the envelope of my desire to include a wide range of styles and traditions from around the spiritual cultures of the world.
I don’t think we should stretch tradition so far as to pull this on Christmas Day, despite the expansive magnanimity within the gathering flock as they observe the slightly chaotic atmosphere of welcoming visitors and families rolling in with children bearing — or wearing — their new gifts.
And anyway, we are going ahead for our Christmas Day celebration with Psalm 96, almost indistinguishable in spirit from 98 in its call for joyful thanks and praise:
O sing to God a new song; sing, all the earth. Sing to God and bless the name; tell of this salvation from day to day.
Declare God’s glory among the nations, the marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; to be revered above all gods. (Ps. 96:1-4 alt.)
So no more blues as we sing the straight-up harmonies of Psalms for all seasons No 96C:
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let all that is in them sing to the Lord (v. 11)
Cantors will sing the verses for us as usual, the people responding with this refrain.
1. We are the delighted beneficiaries of a bequest of a dozen new copies of Psalms for all seasons. Dedicated with three generations of the family present last Sunday, they will be well used, serving to keep the memory of good friend Ralph Tolson warm in our hearts as we sing.
2. This is our beloved minister’s last service with us. Rev. Rachel will hit the road for Melbourne immediately after this joyful Christmas Day celebration. We have greatly appreciated and been enriched by her years of fruitful, inspired and inspiring ministry at South Woden. She is going out in style: the final hymn that we will share with her will be a lively rendition of ‘Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere’. Sure enough, it echoes the call of the psalm:
Go tell it to the nations … then shall the trees of the wood shout for joy at your coming, O Lord.
The ancient psalmists would assume that you will bring your lyre, timbrel and sackbut to join in!