Marvellous!

Reading: Psalm 98
Words donít "mean what they seem" anymore. When some of us went to school we had to learn various "roots" (mainly Latin and Greek) which were supposed to help us to understand where a word had originated and were sometimes useful in guessing the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

Language has changed greatly since those days - but even then you couldnít always depend on it. So in Psalm 88.13 in the King James Version, "But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee," those of us brought in the old way of learning things came up with a jolt, but soon figured that "prevent" comes from the Latin pre meaning "before" and venio "I come." That could mean to "hinder" or "stop" or simply to "come before" in some other sense. These days we never use the word in any other meaning than "hinder" or "stop." So we can face some real traps with no equipment to get ourselves out of the corner.

Some words have lost any such precise meaning. "Awful" no longer "inspires awe." The "terrible" is at least usually unpleasant, but then, if something is "terribly" nice, it is merely "very" nice. In fact, it is "awfully good" of you to notice.

Perhaps this is why they tell us that the English language is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn - itís such a mix-up of unpredictable meanings! Today we are reflecting on the "marvellous" - which has, at least, retained the sense of marvel and astonishment.

Psalm 98 begins, "Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (vv. 1-3).

We recall Maryís song of praise - usually called the Magnificat from the first word in the Latin translation.

God has done marvellous things. It is right that we become all excited, that we want to sing and shout and celebrate! God has done something, not just for us, but for the whole world. We would like the whole world to celebrate with us.

But we live in a world of antagonism and violence. Bethlehem, so close to Jerusalem, has become a hiding-place for terrorists. In the largely-Christian Nazareth it is proposed to build a mosque which will exceed the Church of the Annunciation in size and magnificence.

It is so sad and yet - you cannot upstage or negate the marvellous work of God in sending his Son Jesus Christ. Letís celebrate!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we have lost our sense of awe and wonder and even our marvelling is so trivialised. We are coming again to Christmas, but donít want our celebration to be habitual and trite - lacking real sense of what you have done, avoiding real response to you in day-to-day living. Dear Lord, you have done marvellous things - and all our achievements are so synthetic and paltry. Our "togetherness" is proving to be our brokenness. We come to you laying it all before you - all our brokenness - that in the Christ who came, we may be whole. In Jesusí name, Amen.

Shout and Sing!

Shout and sing
the marvellous things
the Lord has done!

Make known
to the ends of the earth
his creative genius
and power.
Tell of atom
and molecule,
of star
and galaxy,
of wombat
and whale...
Celebrate
the marvellous acts
of our Creator God!

Shout and sing
the marvellous things
the Lord has done!

Make known
to the ends of the earth
his redemptive love
and grace.
Tell of baby
and manger,
of angels
and shepherds,
of star
and wise men...
Celebrate
the marvellous acts
of our Saviour God!


© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 3 December 2002.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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