Advent Reflection: Psalm 95
Read Psalm 95 (NIV)
Joy is experienced in community. The commands of the psalms makes joy a communal imperative to worship the great God, the Lord, the great King, the God above all gods, the creator. So we are called together:
Let us sing for joy.
Let us shout aloud
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
Let us extol him music and song.
Let us bow down in worship.
Joy celebrates what God has done for me, but also what he has done for us to form us into a new people. The prophet Hosea said, and Peter repeats in his epistle, “Once you were not a people, now you are the people of God... who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9-10)
God is not only my God; God is our God. I am not only God’s man, we are God’s people. God not only created me, he created us, the world, humanity, his church, his flock, to respond to him together. That’s really the essence of our worship gathering.
We worship and express joy because too often I crowds out Us. I want. I think. I need. Jesus loves me. I want. I know from personal experience that my focus on I quickly moves from joy and thanks to complain and grumble. This is what the psalmist warns against.
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.”
They complained in the wilderness about what God had provided for them. It wasn’t enough. It didn’t meet their expectations. They wanted something different. They wanted something better. They wanted what they wanted. They became a complaining-grumbling people rather than a rejoice-thanksgiving people.
It went down like this:
They said “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Moses said, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord said, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:1–7)
If the Lord is among us, then there is joy. If the Lord is among us there is thanksgiving. If the Lord is among us there is no room for grumbling-complaining. The word for grumbling is not the same as “constructive feedback.” The word means “a vote of no confidence in God.”
Paul writes to the church in Philippi a community imperative:
It is God who works in you (plural) to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you (plural) may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you (plural) will shine among them like stars in the sky as you (plural) hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you (plural). So you (plural) too should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:13–18)
Christmas is a time for us to worship together and become the people God has called us to become. To get out of ourselves, and together focus on what our God has done for us in Christ Jesus.