Sunday 22nd December
1 How blessed are all who fear the LORD,
Who walk the way that he has shown.
2 Success and blessing will be yours;
You’ll eat the fruit that you have grown.
3 Your wife will be a fruitful vine;
And round your table will be placed
Your children like young olive shoots.
4 Thus he who fears the LORD is blessed.
5 May you behold Jerus’lem’s good;
From Zion may God’s blessing flow.
6 Your children’s children may you see.
May God on Isr’el peace bestow!
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Duke Street here.
I often find myself giving thanks to God for the simplicity of life lived according to this way of Christian faith, both the heartaches it has spared me from and the many joys it has given me. Such is the blessedness of God on this life of faith, and yet as I read this Psalm today, I am left with a sense of longing ‘If only life was this simple’.
On the surface there is a certain blessedness that flows from obedience, but there are also those who don’t see the fruit of their own labour. Families that face hardships and disappointments, that seem to flow not from their disobedience but from their best efforts to live as people of faith. So, what do we say to them, can God’s blessing fail? Or must we consider them crushed for some secret sin?
God forbid that we should ever look upon the struggles of others with such heartless insensitivity.
Sometimes we have to look a little deeper to uncover the true blessings God gives us.
Looking back at this Psalm, I am heartened by the fact that it is read traditionally on the feast of the Holy Family. A family whose obedience led them into messy relationships (insinuations of infidelity and questions of paternity), fugitives and exiles in a foreign land (opposed by religious and secular authorities), and eventually to the heartache of watching their son die a criminal’s death (outside the city whose peace is prayed for here).
Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem and spoke of his desire to gather it as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Jesus, Mary’s olive shoot, who grows up to be an olive branch for us all. God’s gift of peace.
Loving Father, thank you for the many good gifts you pour upon us,
For the gift of work, the fruits of which we share with our neighbours,
For the gift of friends and family that we may both struggle with and celebrate,
For the gift of faith in Jesus whose peace we receive,
Even as we walk the way that he trod, in obedience to you.