Commentary on Ps 88 for the Vigil of Christmas
Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly
Psalm 88 Christmas Vigil Commentary.
The psalms of our Christmas liturgy start off with psalm 88 which harkens back to its royal foundations, to its roots: to King David to be precise.
We may remember that David wanted to build a Temple as a house for God. And God replied that, more importantly, it was God who would make a house for him! That house would be a royal dynasty rather than a building. This promised house would last for ever. Sadly sin and greed broke this succession of sons until The Son of David was born in the City of David, Bethlehem, many years later. God’s promise was sealed in a formal agreement or Covenant, and it is this Covenant that we sing about in the first verse of our psalm. God says. I have made a covenant with my chosen one. I have sworn to David my servant: I will establish your dynasty for ever!” We are treading sacred ground here: in our third stanza God says that this promised heir will be significant “He will say to me, ‘You are my Father, my God the Rock who saves! I will keep my love for him always and my covenant will endure!”
This love language follows the first reading from Isaiah, where God speaks to the chosen people as a bridegroom to his bride. The Gospel which follows our psalm can be from the beginning of Matthew with its long list of names reaching back to the family tree of Jesus and forward to the birth of Jesus to Mary. An alternative Gospel tells of the story of Joseph, “of the House of David”, having a dream in which he is told to take the virgin Mary to his home as his wife and to name the child to be born there as “Jesus”. This naming ceremony by Joseph legally makes Jesus a son of David.
With such an exciting context to our psalm we can with full hearts sing the response, “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord!
Psalm 88: (c) Noel Donnelly. Recorded by Grace Buckley