Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth . . . . Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming. (Psalm 96:1, 11–13, NASB)

Gabriel has been summoned to the throne of God. He approaches the Son and bows.

“Now, Lord?” he asks.

“Go,” He says, and the bright angel leaves in a flash of light.

The Lord rises from His throne and sets out on a long journey. He enters time and space, on His way to a faded blue speck of a planet hanging on the outer web of a galaxy He sang into being long ago.

He passes constellations, and He hears their singing. But there is a sadness, a dying in the old starsong. “Is it time, Lord?”


Descending, He walks on the river Euphrates—the wind a spiraling chaos above demon-haunted depths, where rebel angels rattle ancient chains.

He whispers, “Hush”—the waters calm. The waves, kissing His feet with their tears, ask, “Now, Lord? Now? Now, Lord?”


He approaches the ruined portal of Eden, and enters in. He sits beneath a tree and scoops the earth into His palm. All the living things sigh with memory and groan with a longing for the last Adam to make them new again. They join the muted chorus of all creation, murmuring, “Lord…”


He turns to the wilderness, feels burning sand beneath His feet.

Then, a shifting silhouette rises from the dust, buzzing, prattling. “Even now, you can avoid the pain. Of birth. Of death. Bow—”

The Son exhales—the Shadow retreats into the crags, and drifts away like chaff on the wind.

The Lord turns to a small, lighted home. To a young girl.

Gabriel is leaving. “She knows,” he says.

The Lord nods. “Now.”

The Son takes on flesh.

And the girl sings.

A new song.

O sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonderful things . . . The Lord has made known His salvation . . . He has remembered His lovingkindness. (Psalm 98:1–3, NASB)

This psalm calls God’s people to exuberant praise (98:1). The reason—His deeds (98:1) are reflective of His redemptive mercies (98:2) and faithfulness to His promises (98:3). The expression of our delight in the mercies of God should be with shouts (98:4, 6) and singing (98:1, 5) with musical accompaniment (98:5–6). Not only so, but nature is called to join us—the sea to resound (98:7), the rivers to clap (98:8a), and the mountains to sing (98:8b). The song ends where it began (98:9), with mention of the deeds of God, dealing with His people in rectitude and justice.

What is of interest in this special season, our celebration of the coming of our Lord Jesus, is the connection of Psalm 98 to the birth narratives found in Luke’s Gospel. Mary’s confirmation that she would have a miraculously conceived son (Luke 1:34–35) was to be found in Elizabeth’s pregnancy (1:36). Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s acclamation that through her “my Lord shall come to me” (1:43) was praise (1:46–55). Echoes of Psalm 98 are laced throughout. First, Mary expresses her delight in a psalm of praise (“My soul exalts the Lord” [1:46b]). Second, she recognized that “the Mighty One has done great things for me” (1:49), paralleling the statement, “The Lord has made known His salvation” (Psalm 98:2). Salvation has come through the mighty deeds of God (Luke 1:51, Psalm 98:1b). Third, Mary sees the gift of her yet-to-be-born son as reflecting God’s faithfulness (Luke 1:50, 54, 55). The psalmist states similarly, “He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness” (Psalm 98:3).

Mary’s thought has been captured by the writer to the Hebrews when he noted, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2a). Christmas calls for a great season of praise; God has fulfilled His promises made long ago of a redeemer, a son of Abraham (Luke 1:55; Galatians 3:16), for you and me!

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. (Psalm 1:1, NASB)

Thus far, my wife and I have survived four teenage drivers. Two have successfully made it into their twenties, and we have two late-teener’s to go. Prayers are still accepted! Having taught all four to drive, I made a significant observation: knowing the correct path to their driving destinations is critical. The right directions get them to McDonald’s, whereas wrong directions lead to chaos and the need for a search and rescue team. Yes, the correct way directs one to the desired goal, and the wrong way produces failure and loss.

With stakes much higher than burgers and fries, the psalmist confirms this truth in Psalm 1.

One of the dominant charges that comes out of the Book of Psalms is for the nation of Israel to pursue God’s path as revealed in and through the wisdom of His Word. And that is no different for us today, which is why the apostle Paul reminds us that Scripture is directive and purposeful (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

God’s Word is the way of wisdom.

Like other Torah psalms (for example, Psalms 19 and 119), Psalm 1 contrasts those who follow the way of the Lord versus those who do not.

Those who delight in the things of God refuse to support individuals who mock the Word (1:1), find pleasure in and meditate on what God has revealed (1:2), and tap into God’s nourishing revelation that produces fruit (1:3). Those who do not trust the Lord are tossed about by the winds of life (1:4), are guilty for rejecting God’s truth (1:5), and follow a path toward destruction (1:6).

So what does this have to do with Christmas? Everything!

Friends, God’s grand cosmic GPS system IS the babe in Bethlehem. As the writer of Hebrews said, “God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2). That’s why Jesus Himself said that He is the Way (John 14:6). He is the righteous path. When we follow Him, we’ll make it to our destination. The way of wisdom is a person.

Drive on, you followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 22:4). Trust your coordinates with Him. Delight in the living Word.

He will lead us home.

“Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalm 2:8, NIV)

Age 12: Mom, I think I want an RV. Age 7: Can you get a mortgage and buy me a real Darth Vader suit? Teen: Can I take a two-week class at Cambridge? It’s only $6,000 + airfare. Age 5: Can I have a copy machine in my bedroom and get automatic doors like at the grocery store—plus a doorbell on my camping tent so bears will ring the doorbell? Teen: When you retire, can I have your house? Age 6: Can we take a Royal Caribbean cruise for my birthday? Age 2:  Mama, I ne-e-e-e-d a rocket. A real one. Age 11: Could we drain the pool and fill it with Jell-O so I can swim in it? Age 7: I need a golf cart. Walking’s too hard.

These requests came from my friends’ children. And those friends and I agreed that “audacious” accurately describes their ideas. So imagine if one of the abovementioned kids said, “Dad, I want to possess all the people on earth”!

We might laugh. Or cringe. No human owns the earth, and people aren’t ours to “give.” Yet the Father invited His Son to ask for that very thing. And the implication is that the Son should not only ask—but expect to get it: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8).

For God to promise the world to His Son and for the Son to also inherit the nations, both persons must have universal dominion. And indeed they do. John the elder describes what loud voices in heaven will proclaim when the Son comes into His inheritance: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15, nkjv).

This is the promised legacy of the baby to whom was given gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. O worship the King!

They are led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king. (Psalm 45:15, NIV)

A young couple fell madly in love during their college years. A prominent company in her field recruited her and signed her to an exciting multiyear offer. He, on the other hand, needed to continue on to graduate school for both his MA and PhD—and needed to purchase a powerful, expensive personal computer. Mutually, they wanted to be married. However, he knew that he could not afford both her engagement ring and the computer. She understood, even though her sadness was obvious.

Not long after that hard conversation, he invited her out to their favorite restaurant, the one reserved for special occasions. She excitedly talked about her day. When he got down on one knee next to the table, she gasped. The crowd in the restaurant got quiet. He pulled out a black velvet ring box from his pocket and opened it to reveal the sparkling gem that melted her heart. With tears she smiled, “Don’t you have something you want to ask me?” He put the ring on her finger and begged her, “Sweetheart, I love you with all my heart. Will you please buy me a computer?”

This surprise ending certainly grabs your attention. During this Christmas season, we celebrate a surprise story that the world has been enjoying for centuries. Psalm 45 details the beautiful story.

The psalm describes the details of a splendid wedding. The groom is the resplendent king. He has accomplished great feats, rules a powerful kingdom, and has the admiration of all who know him. Honor is heaped on his name and reputation.

His bride is the height of beauty and grandeur. She and her beauty capture the king’s attention. The wedding to join them is fitting of a royal celebration.

Scripture combines this promise with the fulfillment that begins with the Christmas birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. His eventual bride is us, His church. Redemption is the royal beauty of sin being forgiven and our destiny to be presented to Him forever in eternity. That’s a Christmas gift to look forward to in our future. Merry Christmas!

What I did not steal, I then have to restore. (Psalm 69:4, NASB)

Some years ago, Lieutenant Lloyd Prescott, a deputy of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department, was conducting a class for police officers at the Salt Lake City Library. When he saw a gunman take eighteen people hostage and lead them into a room at the library, the deputy sneaked in among the hostages. Lieutenant Prescott became the last hostage by blending in, walking in the room, and closing the door behind him. Thankfully, the deputy neutralized the situation after several hours, and all the hostages were freed unharmed.

The deputy didn’t cause the mess. It wasn’t his fault or his problem, yet he willingly entered the room to rescue the people and restore peace.

In Psalm 69:4, King David prophesied the coming of his greater Son, the Messiah, who will restore what He did not steal. At His birth, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He willingly came into the room with us. He voluntarily entered into our desperate condition. He came as one of us, restoring what He did not take, cleaning up a mess He didn’t make, and delivering those who were taken hostage by sin.

What had been stolen from us? Our freedom. Our innocence. Our peace. Our fellowship with God. Praise God! The Restorer and Rescuer has come to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

As John Gill says, “He satisfied justice he had never injured, though others had; he fulfilled a law, and bore the penalty of it, which he never broke; and made satisfaction for sins he never committed; and brought in a righteousness he had not taken away.”

Christmas is about restoration and rescue for sinful people provided through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We anxiously await His coming again when everything that was lost will be restored and fully realized through the One who came into the room with us that first Christmas.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1, NIV)

Among the reasons for the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth, surely the atonement is the pinnacle of His work in the first advent. Knowing that He came to die casts a shadow over the celebration of His birth. But it is His death and resurrection that is the foundation of our hope.

On the cross, Jesus quoted the first line of this psalm shortly before He laid down his life (Matthew 27:46–50). Some have read Jesus’s words as expressing His fear, or the reality, that He would be rejected by His Father. Because of the shared intimacy of the Father and Son, a rupture in that relationship in which the Father spurned His Son or, even worse, killed Him, is unthinkable. Jesus has no reason to fear that His loving, merciful, omnibenevolent Father will abandon Him, harm Him, or turn His face away. In the psalm, David explicitly affirms his confidence that God “has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Psalm 22:24).

As Jesus died for the sins of the world, as the wages of all sin of all time were paid to Him in fulfillment of prophecy and the eternal plan of the triune God, He cried out to the only one who could deliver Him. Since this was how they had agreed to save the world, He died alone. The Father did not die with Him but the Father watched Him die alone. Jesus died alone.

The baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas grew up to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He knows the challenges and struggles of life in this fallen world. He has been through what we go through, and He is returning to this world to make all things new. Together with the Father and the Spirit (see Revelation 21:3). And together with His beloved. Forever.

But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning, my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? (Psalm 88:13–14, ESV)

I grew up in New York from junior high through grad school. Christmas in NYC is magical. Some of my best memories come from there. However, two of my top three “cries of darkness” also come from when I lived there. My pastor in NYC, Tim Keller, preached a sermon on “Heman’s Cry of Darkness” from Psalm 88 that helps me still today.

Most Psalms of Lament end in hope. Psalms 39 and 88 are the exceptions. In fact, the last word of Psalm 88 is “darkness.” Heman, the author of Psalm 88, demolishes any naïve notion of prosperity theology. As a devout God-follower, he’s taking off the gloves and giving God his honest thoughts and feelings about his experience of darkness.

This Christmas, many will not sing “Joy to the World” with happiness but will deal with one or both of Heman’s “darknesses”: (1) outward darkness, due to difficult circumstances or (2) inward darkness, due to having no sense of God’s presence. If you are experiencing the “cry of darkness” this Christmas, I’d like to pass on Keller’s four points and the true hope of Christmas:

Times of darkness . . .

1) can last a long time, no matter what you do;

2) are often the places to uniquely learn about God’s grace;

3) can sometimes be the very best situation for you to grow into greatness;

4) can be reframed to lead us to deeper and more significant spiritual realities.

Matthew 27:45–46 reports the ultimate darkness of all time. At the ninth hour, Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At Christmas, we celebrate that Christ came into our time and space, fully God and fully man, to take on the ultimate darkness of all time, demonstrating sacrificial, redemptive love for hopeless humankind.

In your darkest moments, remember Christmas and then remember the cross. If Jesus did not abandon us in His ultimate darkness, why would He abandon you in your darkness?

I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord Now in the presence of all His people. (Psalm 116:13–14, NKJV)

In His last meal, Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover Seder (Mark 14:12), including four cups of wine and the singing of six psalms, two before the feast (Psalms 113–114) and four following the meal (Psalms 115–118). Psalm 116 marks out the third cup of wine—the cup of salvation.

After singing the last of these psalms, Jesus led His disciples down the Kidron Valley and then up the hill festooned with olive trees, the Mount of Olives. A massive press loomed in the orchard; hence, Gethsemane, “oil press.” Rendering oil by crushing and grinding olives was a suitable symbol for the wrenching, agonizing suffering of the Anointed in the darkness of the orchard.

Despite the solid trajectory of Jesus’s lifetime decision to obey the Father by sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 10:5–7), there were moments in the orchard when even He wavered. He wept. He perspired. He agonized. Unexpectedly, He whispered to Abba, Father, “All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me” (Mark 14:36). His right hand was likely raised high above His prone body as though He were holding the wine cup—the cup He had raised while singing the words of Psalm 116.

But now He said, “Take it away!”

Heaven must have hushed. Take away the cup? This was why He was born! This is the meaning of the Incarnation. Horror surged as a storm through angelic ranks.

Then our Savior thought back to the vow He had just renewed in the singing of Psalm 116. He had sung, “I will take up the cup of salvation . . . I will pay my vows to the Lord.”

He now said, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36).

His arm relaxed. But the cup was His again. In the orchard, our salvation was secured. And all heaven smiled.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. (Psalm 118:22, NASB)

If you ask most knowledgeable Christians about messianic texts in the Old Testament, they will likely note Isaiah 53 or Daniel 7:13–14. A less well-known messianic text, however, is Psalm 118.

In fact, this psalm gets used in two ways in the New Testament.

In the first use, Israel will recognize the king by saying “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26). In Luke 13:34–35, this is a warning. Jesus declares a short-term judgment over Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. Jesus says their house will remain desolate untilIsrael says “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The “until” shows Jesus anticipates an eventual reversal of this rejection. Later the disciples offered this same phrase as a blessing when Jesus entered Jerusalem, but the religious leaders did not accept the claim and complained about this honoring of Jesus (Luke 19:37–40).

The second use is more fascinating: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone” (Psalm 118:22 used in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7). It is sometimes said that Isaiah 53 is the Old Testament text that declares Jesus’s rejection, but Psalm 118 is used more in the New Testament to make this specific point! The uses in the Gospels are tied to the parable of the wicked tenants, where Jesus explains that the Son will be rejected yet vindicated. The surprise is that this rejection comes from within. The uses in Acts 4 and Peter’s epistle explain the Jewish rejection of Jesus, with the text also affirming that God will vindicate Him.

Psalm 118 shows God’s program for the king. The psalm is a pattern prophecy and uses the rejecting experience of the king God still accepts as a picture of the ultimate King, Jesus. The birth of this little baby, which we celebrate at Christmas, sets the stage for all of this. Even though many in Israel had expected a strictly victorious Messiah who would not suffer, Psalm 118 reminds us that suffering comes before exaltation.

He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas. (Psalm 78:15, NIV)

Looking at Psalm 78, one would not at first see it as either messianic or Christmas-like. It is an encouragement to parents about instructing their children, reciting God’s great acts in bringing Israel out of Egypt. Asaph’s intent seems to be that children should not be like the unfaithful Hebrews during the wilderness journey out of Egypt—those who received the good things God provided but failed to honor Him for it. (Be sure to tell your kids to write thank-you notes for their gifts!)

In particular, verses 15–20 speak of the water God gave out of the rock: He “gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag…When he [Moses] struck the rock, water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly.”

Several times in the New Testament, Christ says that He could and would supply water. He told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she realized who He was, she would have asked Him to give her living water (John 4:10). And again, during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus urged anyone who was thirsty to believe in Him so that streams of living water would flow out of them (7:37–39). The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, urged them to remember the experiences of the Exodus, saying that the people all drank water from the same spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ! (1 Corinthians 10:4). We might wonder how the people could have known that it was Christ providing the water, but Paul assures us it was so.

The Christmas season is a joyful one for most of us, but we can also be exhausted by it: the decisions, the gifts, the entertainment and travel. When we feel “wrung out,” with overwhelming schedules and demands, let’s turn to the ever-present source of refreshment once again. It’s Jesus and the living water of His Holy Spirit. Take a minute to sit down quietly, and turn to Him for that refreshment today!

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11–12, ESV)

Psalm 91 is a messianic psalm. Satan quoted and misused Psalm 91:11–12 in the context of Christ’s temptation (Luke 4:9–12; Matthew 4:6), but neglected to mention verse 9 (“if you make the Most High your dwelling”). Satan’s strategy was to imply that if Jesus was really the Messiah, Psalm 91:11–12 would apply to Him and give Him the opportunity to prove His claim of deity. Christ had no need to test the truth of God’s Word, neither had He come into the world to take the easy way out. The point: Jesus came into this world to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), not to fall for his deception. Psalm 91 tells us Jesus rejected Satan’s temptation to act apart from the plan of God.

God also assures us that Satan cannot win by causing us to defame the Lord Jesus by applying these verses in an absurd way. God’s protection in the middle of danger is assured for those whose confidence is in the Lord. The security of the believer rests in the Lord by dwelling in “the shadow of the Almighty.” God doesn’t promise a world free from danger and temptation, but He does promise His help whenever the believer faces the devil’s subterfuges.

Psalm 91, then, is one of the finest testimonies to victory over Satan by those who trust in God, exemplified in the life of Jesus, the Messiah. In so doing, it reveals three supernatural gifts of protection and security for the one made righteous by faith in Christ.

  1. SUPERNATURAL SAFETY: There is shelter only in the Lord (91:1–2).
  2. SUPERNATURAL SOLDIERS: There are guardian angels protecting and fighting on our behalf (91:3–13).
  3. SUPERNATURAL SECURITY: Our eternal security rests totally in the “shadow [of the wings] of the Almighty” (91:14–16).

These are three invaluable Christmas gifts from the Father, to the Son, and to you and me.

My heart is not proud, O Lord. . . I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. . . . Put your hope in the Lordboth now and forevermore.  (Psalm 131:1–3, NIV)

If you have observed a baby nursing at a mother’s breast, you have witnessed how it reflects a picture of total contentment in what the mother can provide. The baby is completely dependent and peacefully draws forth strength and sustenance from the mother.

Picture Mary that Christmas night. She just delivered the promised Messiah . . . a tiny baby totally dependent on her as He enters the world and takes His first breaths. Joseph stands nearby comforting Mary. The baby Jesus rests quietly.

Often, Hebrew children were not weaned until they were three years old. If so, Jesus would have developed a close and intimate relationship with Mary, the one who offered Him a place of rest and peace.

This is the same type of relationship that God offers to each of us, His children. We are not to be prideful and independent but develop a humble dependence on Christ who alone can satisfy our souls. A weaned child has experienced a closeness and intimacy with his or her mother. Unlike earthly children who eventually no longer need their mother’s milk, we are to continue to live in daily dependence on the spiritual food that God provides each day.

When we learn to draw close to God and rest in His constant provision, we can experience the peace that comes from placing our hope and dependence in Him. As you celebrate Jesus’s birth with family and friends, let Christmas remind you to live each day with a childlike faith of utter dependence and trust in God. He alone can provide all that you need, and He wants to give you peace.


You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. (Psalm 16:10, NIV)

A birth prompts a whole range of responses. One of the most prominent is hope. When a person is born, we begin to imagine the promise of a life well-lived. What will she contribute to the world? Whose life will he change for the better? Questions like these, questions of expectation, are natural as we encounter newborns. And they make perfect sense when it comes to the birth of Jesus—as we encounter this newborn, we look forward to the great things He will accomplish.

An old Christmas carol—“Ring the Bells”—throws a bit of a wrench into our conception of this newborn Jesus. It affirms that He was “born to die that man may live.” Hebrews 2:9 echoes this sentiment, when it says that God the Son became human so that He “might taste death for everyone.” Death certainly doesn’t bring with it thoughts of hope and expectation. Nor should it. The reason Jesus’s death is different is because of what happens three days later. If our Christmas story tells only that Jesus was born to die, we’re missing something essential. Sure, we can say Jesus was born to die. But we need to follow that up with the equally important: Jesus was born to live.

The affirmation of Psalm 16:10 looks ahead to that most famous descendant of David, Jesus, who was born not just to die, but to live. This means everything to the hope and expectation we invest in this newborn at Christmastime. It means as we celebrate His birth we don’t just anticipate His death, but His resurrection as well. It means something even more pointed for us: we, too, were born to live. As you consider the newborn Jesus this Christmas, remember that His birth provides for us the ultimate hope—our own resurrection and life eternal with Him.

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.