The Psalmist requests: “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” (Psalm 51:15) and St. Peter admonishes in his first letter: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1.Petrus 4,11)
With these words from Psalm 51 we begin the Order of Matins. We thereby confess both that it’s the Lord’s doing if we get our mouths open and we actually sing and profess his doings in creation, salvation and sanctification. The Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs of the Church help us to get this right. Singing as the angel in Bethlehem: “Glad tidings of great joy … whereof I now will say and sing” (M.Luther).
We have all reason to sing the praises of the triune God and not only at Christmas or during ordered services. From the beginning God has done all that is praiseworthy, good, meet and salutary – and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, because you’d think, that it’s just plain polite to be grateful for what he’s done for us and our salvation, but even over and above that, just to show his goodness and mercy. He’s not only done it, but is still doing it worldwide and letting it rain goodness over good and bad and has promised to continue to do his works of preservation, creation, sustaining, flourishing, saving, healing, sanctifying, helping, protecting, keeping, promoting, blessing, growing and and and until it’s all done and finished in eternity. From our side there’s not chance of catching up. That’s not even the purpose. Yet there is a lot of reason to be grateful without end and every day anew: For the Lord is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen!
For it is as Luther writes in the Small Catechism: “all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.” (Kolb & Wengert, 354) and also in the Large Catechism: “Hence, because everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth besides, is daily given, sustained, and protected by God, it inevitably follows that we are in duty bound to love, praise, and thank him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to his service, as he has required and enjoined in the Ten Commandments.
Here much could be said if we were to describe how few people believe this article. We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honor, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served. This is the way the wretched, perverse world acts, drowned in its blindness, misusing all the blessings and gifts of God solely for its own pride, greed, pleasure, and enjoyment, and never once turning to God to thank him or acknowledge him as Lord or Creator.” (Ebd 433)
Therefore let us give head to the admonition of St. Peter, who wrote for us to be faithful stewards of God’s good gifts to us: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1.Petrus 4,11) We are to serve according to the means and grace God has provided. This is off course our responsibility and serious obligation. Yet it is very comforting to know, that the Lord does not demand more than what he has already given. I know that even with that we fall short and do wrong committing sin even in our best days, yet we should not worry that God would expect from us, what he has not made possible or granted in the first place. Only from those, whom he has given much, will he demand much, whereas from those, who are but weak, poor and small he does not expect powerful, rich and great things. That should make us grateful too and prevent us from eyeing the gifts bestowed on others covetously and full of envy and wrongful desire.
In the end it is not so much about our response as it is about the lauding and magnification of God that has happened through Jesus Christ. This glorification happened most prominently during the incarnation of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ and reached its climax in his crucifixion on Golgotha and his victorious resurrection on Easter and his most glorious ascension into heaven before Pentecost. Yet it is as Luther explains the various petitions of the “Our Father” – the glorification and praise of our God and Lord happens even without our doing and participation, yet we ask in this prayer, that our God would open our lips, hearts and beings that we too would praise and magnify his name, serving him as he would have us do amongst his most destitute and poor, so that in all and everything of our daily lives God would be thanked, praised and glorified.
That’s what the shepherds did, when they returned from seeing the little baby Jesus, but also the Kings from afar. It’s our response to his goodness and mercy, which he has showered over us richly through Jesus Christ our Lord and saviour of all nations and whom he revealed to the world in his glorious Epiphany. Amen.
“Hail, Thou Source of Every Blessing” by Basil Woodd, 1760-1831
1.Hail, Thou Source of every blessing,
Sovereign Father of mankind!
Gentiles now, Thy grace possessing,
In Thy courts admission find.
Grateful now we fall before Thee,
In Thy Church obtain a place,
Now by faith behold Thy glory,
Praise Thy truth, adore Thy grace.
2. Once far off, but now invited,
We approach Thy sacred throne;
In Thy covenant united,
Reconciled, redeemed, made one.
Now revealed to Eastern sages,
See the Star of Mercy shine;
Mystery hid in former ages,
Mystery great of love divine.
3. Hail, Thou all-inviting Savior!
Gentiles now their offerings bring;
In Thy temples seek Thy favor,
Jesus Christ, our Lord and King.
May we, body, soul, and spirit,
Live devoted to Thy praise,
Glorious realms of bliss inherit,
Grateful anthems ever raise!
The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #129 Text: Matt. 2:11
Author: Basil Woodd, c. 1810 Tune: “O Durchbrecher“