Sunday, December 25, 2016

Salvation Has Come

Psalm 98 (LXX)
Sing a new song to the Lord
    for He did wondrous things;
His right hand and His holy arm
    saved peoples for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
    He revealed His righteousness in the sight of the Gentiles.
He remembered his mercy to Jacob
    And His truth to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth saw the salvation of our God.

Shout aloud to God, all the earth;
    Sing and greatly rejoice, and sing psalms;
Sing to the Lord on a lyre,
    On a lyre and the voice of a psalm;
With trumpets of metal and the sound of a trumpet of horn,
    Shout aloud before the Lord our King.

Let the sea be shaken and its fullness,
    The world and those who dwell in it.
The rivers shall clap their hands together;
    The mountains shall greatly rejoice;
For He comes to judge the earth;
He shall judge the world in righteousness,
    And the peoples with uprightness.

This psalm is beautiful, telling of God’s mighty hand and powerful working to bring salvation, but one is left wondering of when it speaks.  Is this celebrating the Red Sea crossing? or perhaps Gideon’s victory over Midian? or maybe Sennacherib’s defeat before Hezekiah?  Perchance it may be a general song of victory to be sung whenever the Lord saves His people.  Whatever occasion initially prompted the psalm, it always looked forward to God gaining the victory on behalf of His people.

“Nativity” by Peter Paul Rubens
While feats of provision, strength, and warfare generally garner a joyous response, perhaps none was more grand.  Consider the responses early in Jesus’ life from the heavenly host (Lu 2:13–14), shepherds (Lu 2:17–20), the priest Simeon (Lu 2:28–32), the prophetess Anna (Lu 2:38), and wise men (Mt 2:10–11).  Jews, Gentiles, and the heavenly host joined in praise over the birth of this Child.  Though counter-intuitive, the promised salvation (Mt 1:21; Lu 2:11) initiated when the Son of God emptied Himself, took the form of a bond-servant, and came in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7) would far outweigh any military or political campaign.  This combat would end in utter defeat for sin, death, and the devil; and with every foe vanquished, He will reign with righteousness and His kingdom enjoying perfect peace and rest.

You have made known to us, O Lord, Your salvation, causing to spring up for us the plant of peace, and we shall no longer wander in error.  You have made known to us, O Lord, that You have not unto the end overlooked Your servants; neither have You, O beneficent One, forgotten entirely the works of Your hands.

For out of Your compassion for our low estate You have shed forth upon us abundantly that goodness of Yours which is inexhaustible, and with Your very nature cognate, having redeemed us by Your only begotten Son, who is unchangeably like to You, and of one substance with You; judging it unworthy of Your majesty and goodness to entrust to a servant the work of saving and benefiting Your servants, or to cause that those who had offended should be reconciled by a minister.  But by means of that light, which is of one substance with You, You have given light to those that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, in order that in Your light they might see the light of knowledge; and it has seemed good to You, by means of our Lord and Creator, to fashion us again unto immortality; and You have graciously given unto us a return to Paradise by means of Him who separated us from the joys of Paradise; and by means of Him who has power to forgive sins You have blotted out the handwriting which was against us.

Lastly, by means of Him who is a partaker of Your throne and who cannot be separated from Your divine nature, You have given unto us the gift of reconciliation and access unto You with confidence in order that, by the Lord who recognizes the sovereign authority of none, by the true and omnipotent God, the subscribed sanction, as it were, of so many and such great blessings might constitute the justifying gifts of grace to be certain and indubitable rights to those who have obtained mercy.  And this very thing the prophet before had announced in the words: No ambassador, nor angel, but the Lord Himself saved them; because He loved them, and spared them, and He took them up, and exalted them.… Hence, for the future, a joyous festival is established for us of the race of Adam, because the first Creator of Adam of His own free-will has become the Second Adam.  And the brightness of the Lord our God has come down to sojourn with us, so that we see God face to face, and are saved.

Methodius, Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna 8

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