For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9, NIV)


Winter brings darkness. But it also brings snow and the blinding light of sunshine on snow, which can transform the whole world.

“I have a message from God in my heart,” David begins in Psalm 36, “concerning the sinfulness of the wicked . . . . In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin . . . . They commit themselves to a sinful course” (36:1–4). They desire darkness. They do not fear God.

But David, then, suddenly looks up, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains. . . . For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (36:5–6, 9).

God’s life brings light. The apostle John writes: “In him [the Son] was life, and that life was the light to all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). And, again, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (1:9). Jesus twice declares, “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5), the light that penetrates the universe.

David’s psalm returns to the darkness: “See how the evildoers lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise!” (Psalm 36:12). Today we know almost nothing about the millions of lives in history—the powerful, the talented, the beautiful, and the proud lie indistinct in the dust. Our newsrooms spiel daily that which will soon be meaningless. But David’s life endures.

During the Christmas season, we are surrounded by darkness that pushes in. Evil shades oppress—in culture, the workplace, the school, the home. But the light of God, the light of Jesus Christ, penetrates everything. Therefore let us look up, as did David. Our lives in God’s light take on eternal significance, beauty, power, and joy. “For with you [O LORD] is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”



The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, ESV)


Almost one thousand years before Jesus was born, King David spoke of our Savior in Psalm 110. He described the Lord God speaking to One who was David’s Lord. This One, later specified as Jesus Christ, would be the final Davidic King who would reign over His people as they embraced Him as King (Psalm 110:1–3). David further describes this One as the ultimate Priest in the order of Melchizedek (110:4) and the Judge over all nations (110:5–7). In seven short verses, David captured the essence of Jesus Christ.

Jesus personally quoted this Psalm to affirm His deity when He debated with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:44). Peter quoted it on the Day of Pentecost to argue for the ascension of Christ (Acts 2:34). The author of Hebrews quoted it to clarify that Christ is greater than any angel (Hebrews 1:13). In fact, this Psalm is recognized to be quoted or alluded to in our New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage!

Christ came as David’s Lord to offer Himself as Israel’s, and ultimately the world’s, Savior and King. His rejection by that Jewish generation has resulted in some aspects of His ultimate rule being delayed. However, Jesus Christ will come again to earth to complete all that was prophesied of Him! It’s like part of a Christmas gift that is delivered sometime later!

At Christmas, we recognize and rejoice that He came the first time, not merely as a human baby in Bethlehem but as David’s Lord—God in human flesh. We rejoice that He is OUR Lord, OUR King, and OUR Great High Priest. What a Christmas gift we have to enjoy—the God-Man, Jesus Christ.



The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:10, NASB)


Perhaps my favorite Christmas hymn is Isaac Watts’s majestic “Joy to the World!” set to Handel’s regal strain:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing!

I’ve often wondered, though, how did this hymn, with these lyrics, end up in our Christmas playlist? It sounds more like a proclamation of Christ’s second coming than a celebration of His birth. How does the incarnation of the divine Son of God relate to the redemption of the physical creation itself?

David brings these ideas together beautifully in Psalm 24, giving us insight into the profound theology of “Joy to the World!” That Psalm begins with the foundational confession that the earth—and all it contains—belongs to the Lord, both “the world, and those who dwell in it” (24:1). In light of this truth, Isaac Watts could write:

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

Psalm 24 reflects not only on God as Creator (Psalm 24:1–2) but also on God as Savior (24:3–6). It reminds us of the critical truth that righteousness comes not from our own works, but “from the God of salvation” (24:5).

Yet both God as Creator of the world and God as Savior of His people find their fulfillment in God as mighty King (24:7–10). Though David didn’t have a name for this One who would enter through the ancient gates after conquering in battle, we know today that the King of glory, who is also the Lord of hosts, is none other than Jesus. By His incarnation and birth in Bethlehem—as God and man—He eternally united both heaven and earth and gives salvation to everyone who receives Him. Therefore, we sing those rousing words at Christmas: “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing.”



“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NRSV)


Christmas is the busiest time of the year. There is shopping to do, family activities for which to plan, and church commitments to fulfill. It can be overwhelming. It is comforting to know that we are not alone. In times like this we need to be reminded that God is with us and that He is in control.

Ancient Israel faced many difficult times. Sometimes their entire existence was in jeopardy. One such instance is reflected in Psalm 46. We do not know what event triggered the composition of this Psalm. We do know that Israel was in trouble. The author uses powerful metaphors such as “though the earth should change,” “mountains shake” and “tremble,” and “waters roar” (46:2–3) to reflect their tumultuous circumstances.

The psalmist responds with trust and hope. His focus is on God. He reflects on God’s unwavering strength (46:5a), His past work (46:8–9), and His commitment to His people (46:5b, 11). The psalmist records God’s exhortation: “Be still.”

This is not a call to idleness. It is an invitation to rest because of who God is and an opportunity to be reminded of, and to reflect on, God’s presence and position in His creation: God is “exalted” (46:10–11).

We know what God can do. Not only what He has accomplished in our lives but also what He has accomplished through His Son, Jesus. In a sense, Christmas is the ultimate application of this Psalm. Humankind was doomed. We were totally lost and helpless. At the right moment, Jesus came and delivered us from sin and death. God is to be exalted.

Thus, in the midst of all the planning, shopping, parties, church activities, and other preparations, remember who God is and what He has done through Jesus. God invites us to take a moment and reflect on the reason we are doing all of this. He is God. He is in control. Be still.



The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:14, ESV)


A few decades ago, I stood before witnesses and made a covenant with my wife. What happened that day is as clear in my memory as the events of yesterday. That day, I promised to do several things that would demonstrate my love for her. I wish I could say that my practices have always been in keeping with my promises.

Yet, those of us who have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ have a covenant-keeping God. Christ fulfills every promise He made to His bride, the church. In fact, the Christmas season celebrates the birth of Jesus, which is a fulfillment of the promise God made through Moses: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:15). And this is only one of the places where we see this promise!

We should take time to do what the writer of Psalm 118 does: reflect on God’s promises, which will lead to praise, exultation, and thanksgiving. The writer says that everything that God does for us is done out of love. The psalmist speaks of a love, an intimate relationship that has no end—no ceiling or bottom. A love so strong that during times of distress it eases our anguish and pain because we know that the Lord is with us. He is there in the midst of the pain that will only last for a season.

The psalm writer is so confident in God’s love and His trustworthiness to keep His promises that the psalmist is able to say, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14).

My wife and I have journeyed together through many ups and downs of ministry, but we never moved from the initial commitment we made to the Lord and each other. One constant through all our time together has been the Lord and the reminder that through it all, He is a covenant-keeping God.

I encourage you to heed the words of Psalm 118:24—“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”—as you celebrate God’s promise fulfilled by the birth of our Lord and Savior!



I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart. (Psalm 138:1, ESV)


When David gave thanks, he used everything in him: “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart” (Psalm 138:1). David’s life exemplified exuberant praise and worship of the Lord. Psalm 138 gives us a glimpse into why David was so exuberant about the Lord. He excitedly praised God because “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased” (138:3). David’s fellowship with God was so intimate, God knew that the moment He answered David’s prayer, David would give Him praise.

The first Christmas was a time of many answered prayers. Just imagine how many people—Simeon, Zechariah, Anna, Elizabeth, Mary, and countless others—had prayed for the coming of the Messiah, saying “next year in Jerusalem,” “maybe this year will be the year?” Now their prayers were answered.

And, just like David in Psalm 138, they gave exuberant praise to God. It was almost beyond description as Mary recited her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–56), Zechariah prophesied (1:67–79), Simeon gave his praise (2:29–32), and the very angels cried out saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (2:14). Not only was God faithful but, imagine, “God was pleased!” The people had been praying for this very event for thousands of years. Wonder, amazement, and awe are words that cannot fully express the coming of the Messiah. But if we didn’t try to use words to describe it, the very rocks would cry out (19:40).

This Christmas, what answers to prayer have you had that lead you to praise God with exuberance the way David did in Psalm 138? Not only did God keep His word in the first coming, but He is coming again to take us to heaven where there will be no more tears, pain, sickness, cancer, or depression, and we will see our loved ones again. To quote a hymn from the past, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”



The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:19–20, niv)


We live in a broken world. Today’s news recounts horrendous atrocities—war, corruption, crimes against humanity. Evil is not new. It existed in Bible times and throughout our history. No leader or king can save us from the evil that permeates our world.

David, God’s chosen king, proclaimed “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (Psalm 34:16). He admonished God’s people to “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

David knew the frailty of the people (afflicted, fearful, poor, troubled, broken, crushed). Yet he testifies to God’s goodness (Psalm 34:1–10). The activeness of our God leaps off the page—He answers, delivers, hears, saves, protects, and rescues.

When the time was right, Jesus actively leapt from the heights of heaven into our world.

A broken world.

In need of a Messiah who would not be broken by the evil of this world.

God sent His Son, the King of kings, to overcome death and provide life for us—we who are captive to our sin.

Like King David before Him, Jesus knew the frailty of the people and had compassion on them, healed the broken, and drove out evil spirits (Mark 6:34; Matthew 4:24).

Jesus died a horrible death on the cross, but not one of His bones was broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:36). Through His resurrection, He ultimately defeated death and overcame this broken world (John 16:33).

Fast forward to today. This world seems more broken now than ever. We cannot defeat the evil around us, nor can we save ourselves from the sin that settles in our hearts. Jesus, our Messiah, is the only One who can. He delivers. He redeems.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Psalm 34:1). Like David, we sing and celebrate our Messiah this Christmas, throughout the year, and into all eternity!



The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1–4, ESV)


Growing up on a small farm in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, I recall watching my grandfather tend to the growing flock of sheep that were closely huddled together in the six-generation-old barn for winter.

There was tenderness and warmth in his calloused hands that radiated nothing less than an abiding love. Each day he would feed his sheep grain and hay. He doctored the sick with penicillin. He often woke up in the early hours to ensure a safe delivery of a newborn lamb. If the pipes that lined the sheep’s manger froze during a bone-chilling snowstorm, he would be the first to hand-deliver a kettle of hot water, pouring it along the rubbery, iced pipes.

All of us who worked alongside Grandpa knew of his love for the flock. But it was those simple sheep that knew his love most.

“Come Nannie! Come Nannie!” Grandpa would call in a firm but gentle tone. The sheep were never startled or panicked by his beckon. They yearned for his voice of loving leadership. They followed him as he would feed and lead them each day.

How could they not trust such a good shepherd?

It brings comfort to know that, like my grandfather, Jesus is a good shepherd. He knows us by name. Our Good Shepherd laid down his life for us—humbled Himself as a babe in a manger and though innocent, died on a cross for our sin. Whatever you are facing today, will you trust Jesus, the Messiah, as your Good Shepherd?



O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. (Psalm 8:1, NASB)


We think of Christmas as a time of celebration, with expressions of love for family, delicious food, laughter, and sharing a year’s worth of memories. We usually pray that these occasions will be inked indelibly in our memories. I can remember details of past Christmases, while other “memorable” events have been lost forever.

Psalm 8 declares that worship of our Creator and Savior should be a significant part of these celebrations: “O Lord, our Lord, how incomparably majestic is Your name in all of the universe!” (Psalm 8:1). King David sang these words one night as he contemplated the vastness of the starry sky and considered how the Creator “had crowned His seemingly insignificant people with glory and honor” (8:5). As described in Genesis 1:26–28, Adam and Eve were a royal couple with responsibility of ordering creation under God. However, according to Hebrews 2:8–9, because of sin, we do not see everything subject to Him . . . but we see Jesus! Incarnate from His birth in Bethlehem, the Son of Man lived to suffer death to save us and to reaffirm our creational purpose by the grace of God. The Son of Man, one of Jesus’s favorite titles for Himself, was the author of our salvation who was made perfect through suffering . . . and is now crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:9–10). God majestically stooped down to reach the height of mankind’s glory.

Too frequently we focus our attention on ourselves rather than the Lord. Even as biblical praise and prayer are removed from our public squares, Christians should freely celebrate the advent of Messiah, our Maker and Savior, at Christmas. A great truth—both awesome and intimate! “O Lord, our Lord, how incomparably glorious is Your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:9). When Messiah returns, we will be blessed by universal praise of God in every home and public place, ruling with Him over “all the works of His hands.”



Then I said, “Here I am, I have come…I desire to do your will.” (Psalm 40:7–8, NIV; Hebrews 10:7)


What nostalgic Christmas memories dance in your head? Probably not the contents of shiny packages you tore open Christmas morning but forgot by afternoon. Growing up, were you privy to special traditions that made Christmas a season of holy exhilaration? If so, why not pass them down to younger generations?

Experiencing a sacred Christmas means moving past our culture’s consumeristic focus on this year’s hot clothes, toys, and electronics to celebrate and savor what it’s really about—Christ’s willingness to come to earth to save us from our sins. Psalm 40:7 and 8 reveal His attitude toward His earthly mission, words later affirmed by the author of Hebrews. The psalmist went on to tell us how to respond to Jesus’s willing self-sacrifice: “I proclaim your saving acts . . . I do not seal my lips . . . I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 40:9–10).

It seems at Christmas people’s greetings are a bit more enthusiastic, hearts a bit more open. Who in your world needs to hear this glorious news? Children? Grandchildren? Nieces and nephews? Neighbor children? Young people in your church or community?

Consider these practical ways to tell them, particularly younger generations who likely have not been exposed to practices that facilitate a sacred Christmas. Introduce them to historic carols that teach biblical truth. Attend a concert or take them caroling at a senior center, and while there, ask older folks about their Christmas memories. Make church a priority. Watch inspirational films. Be with people you care about. Volunteer. Create and deliver a Christmas care package to someone who is unemployed or experiencing a crisis. Light candles. Decorate and cook together. Read a special Christmas book. And as you do, engage them. TALK! Ask questions. Explain what Christmas really means. Give them the gift of nostalgic memories that will one day dance in their heads, centered on their beloved Messiah-Savior, Jesus.



He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. (Psalm 113:9, NASB)


There is a Christmas connection that threads from Hannah and her hymn over the miraculous birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2) to the Magnificat of Mary when she learns she will be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1). Central to the songs of their mothers, the miraculous births of Samuel and Jesus are linked together by the theology expressed in Psalm 113. According to Psalm 113, God is to be praised because of the greatness of His glory (113:4–5) and the goodness of His grace (113:6–9).

We get a telescopic perspective of God’s greatness as the psalmist writes as if looking into space, “The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high” (113:4–5). And then, as if one could get behind God and look down and see what He sees, the psalmist penned, “Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?” (113:6). It is as if God has to look through a microscope just to see heaven, not to mention to find us! This reflects God’s grace.

Then the psalmist illustrates such grace. “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!’” (113:7–9). What Hannah, the psalmist, and Mary have in common is the experience of God reaching and redeeming the neediest of people.

The psalmist uses two illustrations that show God’s grace to both men and women. The first emphasizes rescue and adoption; the second shows God’s life-giving power and acceptance. Hannah and Mary share the experience of children given by God who play significant roles by their inclusion in God’s plans for Israel and the world. Because God is great and glorious, He has the power to give both physical and eternal life. Because He is good and gracious, He demonstrates love when He reaches and rescues the neediest of people—and that means all of us.

 



The devotionals for 2018 will begin on December 1st. We are excited that you will be joining us in this time of reflection and expectation through the advent season as we look back at our Lord’s first coming and look forward to His return.

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Merry Christmas,

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