Summary: The whole created order finds joy in the coming of Christ. It’s time we truly celebrated, either by doing something good for ourselves or by helping someone else.
The psalm which we just read together was paraphrased many years ago by Archbishop Cranmer as a great hymn of praise, used for generations in the Church of England. Its Latin name is "Benedicite omnia opera": "Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord". This hymn is a long recitation of many of God’s creations, every one of which is addressed and urged to praise and magnify God. It includes some strange and wonderful things in its list of the works of the Lord.
While you might expect lines like, "All ye children of men, bless ye the Lord"; while it causes no great stir to sing, "All ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord"; and while we can certainly identify with the line, "All ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord" – all these references to persons praising the Lord make sense to us – yet some of the other lines may sound peculiar to you.
How about "Oh ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord"? How about "Oh ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord."? "0 ye winds of God, bless ye the Lord; 0 ye winter and summer, bless ye the Lord; 0 ye dews and frosts, ye frost and cold, ye ice and snow, bless ye the Lord." When did you last think of ice and snow as blessing the Lord? If you get stuck in it the words you mutter under your icy breath are not usually words of blessing!
And it goes on, this hymn that exhorts all things to bless and praise the Lord. "All the mountains and hills, bless the Lord; all ye seas and floods, praise ye the Lord; all the whales and all that move in the waters, praise and bless ye the Lord."
You’ve got the idea by now. Just as the psalmist did some 25 centuries ago, the good archbishop did four centuries ago: they called on all nature, all things, all the created order, to praise God. Not just you and me, not just the church, not just Christians, but all things are summoned to give blessing and praise to our God. All things.
And all things, it would appear, might include some very peculiar items. All things includes some stuff you and I would be reluctant to mention in our very prescribed, cut and dried, and sometimes self-centered worship and prayer:
"All ye sea monsters and all deeps, praise the Lord" "All ye wild animals and all cattle, bless the Lord" "All mountains and hills, all fire and hail, snow and frost, all stormy winds fulfilling his command, praise and bless ye the Lord." That’s quite a catalog, isn’t it? It makes you wonder what else should be included in the list of those of God’s works which are to bless and praise Him.
One of my grandmother’s contemporaries, Virginia Carey Winston, wrote a little book a number of years ago, describing her childhood in old Kentucky, in the central bluegrass region. Her intent was to give you the flavor of what it was like to grow up in a land of beauty and genteel ways at the turn of the century. Bear in mind, folks, that the land of which she speaks is a land of unsurpassed beauty. Bear well in mind that this is a land where the grass is greener, or bluer, as the case may be, than anywhere else in creation; bear especially well in mind that when spring comes in Kentucky and the horses foal and the lambs are born, that there is a sweetness unlike any other on earth. The reason why West Virginia is almost heaven is that it is next to Kentucky, which is heaven.
And so Virginia Carey Winston reports that when she was a little girl growing up in the bluegrass country, attending a prim and proper school for girls, chapel services every day included the recitation of this very hymn, "All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord". One glorious Kentucky morning, with a gentle haze rising from behind the hills, with the bleating of young lambs just outside the window, with the excitement of racing season building, the chapel service had finished exhorting fire and ice and snow and hail and mountains and monsters and whales and fruit trees to praise the Lord. Young Virginia just could not contain herself. She blurted out, all by herself, a very unorthodox addition to the psalm, "All ye jigs and juleps, praise the Lord."
What do you think? Might it be that a Kentucky-bred clogging dance praise the Lord? Might it be that a very non-Baptist drink made of rum, sugar, water, and a sprig of mint also praise the Lord? "All ye jigs and juleps, praise the Lord." Might it be that a little girl’s enthusiastic outburst, in fact, is a clue to something at the heart of the coming of Christ?