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New Year 2012
In a few days, the world will restart with a clank and like a giant printing press will pick up speed, groaning and whining ever faster until once more we are engulfed in news, politics, economics, crime, sensationalism and international affairs. So it is lovely to take a breath this morning to reflect on Psalm eight that thinks about all our anxiety, our business, our preoccupations and our worldliness and wonder where it might all fit. C S Lewis pointed out that at Christmas time there is a tendency to stress Jesus’ humanity and, in many ways of course, this is the point. Jesus came as a baby so that we might begin to understand love, humility, sacrifice and purity. This psalm though sets out to explore the relationship between mankind and God more fully still. Indeed, one of its frequently quoted lines “out of the mouths of babes and infants” was used by Jesus himself for exactly this purpose when explaining to the Pharisees why the children could cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David” as he entered the temple in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. If Christmas is about Jesus’ humanity, then Psalm eight is about his deity.
The opening words “O Lord our sovereign” make clear and in my view here the King James version, which says “O Lord our Lord” makes it even clearer that God is lord of us. The Psalmist could simply have written “O Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.” but there is a sense you see that simply saying O Lord is insufficient, it is not enough. The Psalmist wants us to own the relationship, and so adds “Lord our Lord”.
The rest of the poem then for eight verses muses on what this might mean. It is as if, and we can imagine, that David is walking about on a bright clear night with the vast array of stars above him pondering deeply as he wanders, leaving behind him all his everyday affairs. God, he reflects, is above the heavens, even the angels as we know worship God. When we consider the extraordinary greatness of God, who established the moon and the stars above us, we wonder why God would care for mortals at all. We are insignificant, small motes of dust in a universe that God made so easily, with only his fingers.
Yet God loves us, so much so that he places us above the animals, the birds and the fish, giving us dominion over these wonders of his creation, so that we can be described as (only) a little lower than the angels. We need to hold these two ideas together as we walk with David in the crystal clear night: That God is glorious, reflected in the heavens, and that he is gracious to be mindful of puny man and his doings, to grant him lordly power over his creatures and more as we have heard in the last few days, even to come among us as one of us. And so we come back from our walk and our musing as we began, “O Lord our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”
As the year clanks into action let us resolve to try to regularly take some time out, to take a metaphorical stroll on a starlit night. Begin with your faith "Our Father who art in heaven” and let it as David did, roll around in your minds, like a boiled sweet on the tongue, savour it, allow it to infuse your thinking to penetrate your thoughts and actions and come back refreshed, reinvigorated and reassured that all things earthly are transient, of no lasting value and yet despite that being so, God will help us with those things in our lives nonetheless.