Saturday, December 26, 2015

Blowin' in the Wind: Let Heaven and Nature Sing

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

I’ve written in the past on Isaac Watts’ great Christmas carol, Joy to the World, emphasizing the text’s nature strophes. (Click here for that post.) My favorite lines?

No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found!

As I mentioned in that earlier blogpost, the ‘curse’ is a reference back to Genesis 3 and the punishments Adam and Eve received in consequence of their sin; it is said there that the ground to be tilled by them would be cursed with thorns and weeds as they did so. That curse is now tempered by the Incarnation, where blessings now flow in more than commensurate degree to the struggle. Indeed, let heaven and nature sing!

Though Watts seems to have based his hymn text on Psalm 93, a genre with frequent references to a singing creation, I’ve been studying Isaiah recently and have also found there several references to a heavens and nature that sing. Take for example Isaiah 44:23 -- Sing, you heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth! Break out into singing, O forest, all of your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will glorify himself in Israel. Or consider Isaiah 55:12, one of my favorites – For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands.

G.E. Wright, the great Harvard Old Testament scholar and archeologist, goes so far in his little commentary on Isaiah as to say that one of the prophet’s key themes is his emphasis upon God as sovereign Creator, but it is simply “…the preface to the proclamation of God as sovereign Redeemer. He who has the power to create is Lord and Savior. The creation by God is not set forth as a matter of speculation… It is a means of proclaiming… his mighty acts in history whereby men [sic] may see and know his sovereignty.”

So what do heaven and nature sing? That God’s power and sovereignty have been manifested in a holy birth that makes possible the salvation of absolutely everything – every body, every soul and all of creation.

And that’s something worth singing about.

~~Blessed Christmastide,
RGM, December 25, 2015

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