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Good Christians, Rejoice!

Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

—Wendell Berry, ”Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

 

Wendell Berry’s oft-quoted manifesto trades in irony as he constantly juxtaposes the conventional wisdom of capitalist consumerism with encouragements to disrupt it in the name of radical Christianity. So herein he contrasts the implicitly Biblical imperative to rejoice with the joy-crushing outlook of the organization man, the cog in the wheel, and, as we might say a generation later, the doomscrolling addict.


Still, I was struck by how the Bible puts the matter so directly: Be joyf ul precisely because you have considered all the facts.

 

In fact, one needs to consider—although, yes, one must consider properly—the One Fact: Yhwh Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, who is also Our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the indwelling Spirit.

 

As we celebrate Epiphany (January 6), let us join the wise men in beginning where wisdom begins: fearing Yhwh, giving God due recognition, and thus exclaiming in joy as the psalmists do.

 

Let’s take Psalm 66—which I’m tempted to call a “generic psalm”—as our text:


Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

sing the glory of his name;    

give to him glorious praise.

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!    

Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

All the earth worships you;    

they sing praises to you,    

sing praises to your name.” Selah


Come and see what God has done:    

he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

He turned the sea into dry land;    

they passed through the river on foot.

There we rejoiced in him,   

who rules by his might forever,

whose eyes keep watch on the nations—    

let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah

Bless our God, O peoples;    

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living    

and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us;    

you have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net;   

you laid burdens on our backs;

you let people ride over our heads;    

we went through fire and through water;

yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

 

David’s characteristic themes are here: global praise prompted by God’s mighty deeds for Israel, especially the Exodus; God’s sovereignty over the nations; God’s discipline resulting in God’s blessing—indeed, God’s discipline resulting in (to resort to the Hebrew text alternative to the concluding phrase) saturation. (Think of Psalm 23:5 and one’s cup “running over.”) Yhwh is measured in his judgments but superabundant in his blessing.

 

Considering the One Fact of Yhwh turns every fear into foolishness and every hardship into a passing shadow, as the “imperial light” (a terrific phrase from poet Beth Merizon) of God’s coming kingdom spreads across the landscape from the manger in Bethlehem.

 

Rejoice, then, along with Brother Berry as Christmas starts another new year with the One Fact properly centred in our hearts. It is the Reality against which all others appear to be dust and vapour.

 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.

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