O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
Cantate Domino canticum novum.
It is a Latin phrase that translates several Bible passages, but most particularly the beginnings of two Psalms (96 and 98), one of which is today’s scripture passage: Sing to the Lord a new song. But what did it mean to the ancient Hebrews to sing to Yahweh a new song? The Jews of ancient times did not share our modern popular culture’s obsession with novelty. After all, one of their most significant acts of worship preserves a ritual meal that recalls God’s act of freeing His people from bondage in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. I am sure they were not interested in a musical version of Psalm 96 (or any of the other “Cantate Domino” passages) that was new just for the sake of being new, and which would be forgotten next week or next month when another rendition of “Cantate Domino” hit the charts.
But they were concerned, I believe, with saying or singing their Psalms with feeling —not simply reciting them mechanically by rote. Doing so brought a sense of newness they could prize, even while singing the same old words to the same old melody. You have to sing as if you are just making it up on the spot, as if it is a fresh thought that just came to you.
This should be especially true for us today when this passage from Psalm 96 is used as an Advent reading. As we read it (or sing it!), do we capture its joy and exultation? Reflecting upon it, I have been struck by the exuberance of the closing verses (11-13), where
the heavens are glad,
the earth rejoices,
the sea roars,
the field exults,
and the trees of the forest sing for joy,
for Christ “is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.”
He is coming! Let’s join with all creation in singing for joy!
The Season of Advent is one of quiet preparation for the coming of the Christ at Christmas and also for the return of Christ as our King. This final hymn in our annual Advent Lessons and Carols Service is a favorite tune and is paired with a triumphant text. In it, we are reminded of the Second Coming of Christ. Charles Wesley directly linked this text to the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” The majesty of the text is painted beautifully with the soaring tune and delicious harmonizations. David Willcocks, perhaps the best church musician of the 20th century, provides us with a full choir descant in the final verse along with lush reharmonizations. Please use the recording to become familiar with this terrific hymn as we worship together on Advent 2!
Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand, thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn splendor near!
All the saints, this world rejected,
Thrill the trumpet sound to hear:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
See the day of God appear!
Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee,
high on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the pow’r and glory,
claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!
Melody: Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778)
Harmony: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1710–1778)
Arranger: David Willcocks (1919–2015)
Text: Charles Wesley (1707–1788)
Second Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Peace
The Christmas story is full of humans who made hard and faithful choices to honor God. This is especially true of the story of Jesus’ birth. Even though she was afraid, Mary decided she would follow God’s plan for her. The angel told Mary, “Do not be afraid.” Just as the angel brought Mary peace, Mary would bring peace to others. She was the mother of Jesus Christ—and we call Jesus the “Prince of Peace.” Tell a story or draw a picture about a time you felt peace.
Dear Lord, help us to have the faith of Mary. Help us to have courage, and to bring peace to others. Amen.
Wanikiya tonpi wowiyuskin! (Merry Christmas!)
The wintry windswept high plains of North Dakota, where buffalo can be seen in their heavy winter coats grazing through the deep snow, are pretty far away from Bethlehem, but Christmas still comes to the Spirit Lake People in its own way. Joe Obermeyer serves as the youth and outreach coordinator at Bdecan Presbyterian Church in Spirit Lake and is sponsored in large part by Westminster. He recently described the holidays on the reservation. “Bdecan is a small family church,” says Joe. “Family is very important to members at Bdecan. Because of this, the people of Bdecan love gathering together for
special holiday services….The Christmas service is always very meaningful.”
As one of our national missions, Westminster sponsors several activities supporting the Dakota Sioux Mdewakan (Spirit Lake People) on the reservation at Devils Lake, North Dakota. WPC has partnered with the Bdecan Presbyterian Church for several years, and helped to install and fund Joe Obermeyer at Bdecan. Six Westminster members travelled to North Dakota to celebrate Joe’s fifth anniversary with the Bdecan ministry earlier this year. WPC visits the reservation most years, provides funds to support building improvements, and provides scholarships to students at the Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College. The WPC senior high youth have the Spirit Lake reservation on their four-year rotation for mission trips as well, and were there last in 2016.
For the last several years, Westminster members have filled out Christmas cards for Joe Obermeyer, but this year let’s widen our outreach! During the Alternative Giving Bazaar, please stop by the National Mission table and write out a Christmas greeting to one of our friends at Spirit Lake (simply address it to “Our Friends at Bdecan”). If you cannot attend, feel free to write a card and leave it in the National Mission box in the church office.