12-30-18 Praise the Lord Anyway

Jay P Rowland

“Praise the Lord Anyway”

Psalm 148 & Luke 2:21-38



Though in some ways it feels like more than just a few days ago, it was only a few days ago now that Jesus was born.  

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Joseph and Mary were at least off the street and out of the way when the baby arrived.  And so because of this, Jesus and his beleaguered parents could stretch out and sleep upon something other than the cold, hard ground, albeit scratchy, lumpy hay. Beggars can’t be choosers as the saying goes. 

It was just another day--or night perhaps--to the world at the time when God quietly slipped into this world of trees and sand and oceans and stars and weather and people. The world noticed or cared not at all.  Except for some shepherds, a few foreign star-gazers, and a bunch of animals, Joseph and Mary were the only earthly creatures to notice that something unprecedented happened. 

And that’s how that day and year ended and something new began for Mary, Joseph, God, Jesus … and the world. Fast forward a couple thousand years and here we are just a couple of days from ending another year and beginning another.  Here we are, assembled in God’s house, like Simeon and Anna, a good place from which to look back upon all that happened in 2018; a good place to anchor ourselves before the year 2019 begins.  

As happens every year, this past year we experienced moments of great joy and meaning. Moments of transcendence and beauty. Moments we might have, if only we could, somehow bottle and preserve.  To which I say, with Psalm 148, “Praise the Lord”. 

As happens every year, this past year we also witnessed and experienced moments of great difficulty, even anguish. Moments we wish hadn’t happened.  Moments for which we could not possibly have prepared. As I say that it occurs to me that Mary and Joseph certainly did. To which I say, slightly amending Psalm 138: “Praise the Lord, anyway.” 

I say “Praise the Lord anyway” not to ignore or dismiss or deny those moments, but only because I’ve come to believe it’s not merely important, it’s downright critical to persevere, to fight when necessary to hold onto hope and faith and trust in God.  In order to remind myself no matter what happens on any given day or year, that God who came into this world in the person Jesus in such a way that there could be no mistake about God’s intentions with us.   

Into this world of violence and corruption and trouble and abuse and power-over, God came. God came not declaring war … God came not as a warrior steeling for battle.  Rather God came into this world vulnerable to all of it, as vulnerable as any and all of us are.  And Jesus remained vulnerable to the evils of this world all the way to the end. And though he might have been tempted to do otherwise, in the end Jesus became another casualty of this world’s corruption, violence, abuse, trouble and power-plays just as all of us become one way or another.  

Jesus did so because he was determined to love his way through this world, so that we might be convinced that his love for us is indeed everlasting, unbreakable, unshakable.   

In the bleak midwinter of the world, Jesus was born; his birth and his love changing the world one person at a time. In the springtime of the world, Jesus was executed, crucified. Jesus’ death and Jesus’ love-stained resurrection continuing to change the world one person at a time.   

And so when we experience moments of joy and beauty in this life: Praise the Lord!  And when we too experience the depths of human agony in this life: Praise the Lord anyway! 



So much happens in the span of 365 days.   

So much happens in our world, nation, state, city, etc.  

The relentless pace of life and news cycles makes it inevitable that we’ll forget the details sometimes. Media outlets always roll out their year in review but it all eventually recedes into the background of our memory, abstract, detached.  And yet we manage to retain the fear, anxiety and alarm.  

Praise the Lord anyway.  

Soon, the year 2018 and everything it brought to us and everything it took from us will come to an end--whether we want it to or not, whether we’re “ready” for it or not.  Time marches forward. 

Soon, the year 2019 will begin and with it another run of 365 days in which much will happen in our world, our nation, our state, our city, our schools, our families.  Some of it will be wonderful and blessed. Some of it will not.  All of it will happen whether or not we’re “ready” and whether we want it to or not. 

Praise the Lord anyway. 

Because God is with us.  Emmanuel!   

If God were not with us, we would never have made it this far—well, I know I certainly would not have made it this far. 

And because God is with us, we’ll make it through whatever comes our way in the year ahead.  Whatever the coming year shall bring to us or take from us, we will make it through somehow. Because: Emmanuel!  God is with us!  

And so with Simeon, who after a lifetime of joy and pain was still moved to praise the Lord, let us also praise the Lord for our eyes too have “seen” salvation in the life of Jesus Christ (Luke 21:29ff).  

With Anna, who after a lifetime of joy and also pain chose to remain steadfast in her faith and trust in God’s promises, and who steadfastly planted herself in the Temple to worship and praise the living God, let us, as she did, come also to praise the Lord and to speak about the child to all who look for redemption … (Luke 21:38). 

Let us learn to say, come what may:

Praise the Lord.  

Praise the Lord. 

Praise the Lord.  

Praise the Lord anyway. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow …

Praise God, all creatures here below …

Praise God above, ye Heavenly Host …

Praise God, Christ and Holy Ghost.