Christmas PsalmsDecember 6-10
JOY TO THE WORLD!
Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. – Psalm 98:1 (ESV)
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. His keen mind and work earned him the unofficial title of “the greatest justice since John Marshall.” At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” (Today In The Word)
Christmas is typically known as a time of joy. However, the psalmist challenged believers to have a consistent joy because of the marvelous things God has accomplished. The Apostle Paul also challenged the church in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to have joy all year long when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the Greek, “always” is placed in front of “rejoice.” This was to emphasize that we are called to rejoice at all times. Paul’s command to “rejoice always” is even more surprising in view of the suffering they had already endured. Believers can rejoice always because their joy isn’t based on circumstances, but on God. Circumstances change, but God never changes.
This week we will explore how we can have joy through Christ at Christmas and at all times. What are some of the joy stealers for you at Christmas time? What are some of the joy stealers for you year round? How does Paul’s command to rejoice always affect how you see your joy stealers?
1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, “and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit.” Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who helps us have joy even in the face of difficult times.
The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. – Psalm 98:2 (ESV)
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. (Source Unknown)
The birth of our Savior promised to make eternal joy possible. In Psalm 98 the psalmist celebrates God revealing Himself and salvation with the birth of Jesus. The psalmist uses the expressions “made known” and “revealed” to describe God unwrapping the gift of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus makes it possible for us to look forward to being in the presence of God one day. This joy is not partial joy; not imperfect joy; not joy intermingled with pain and sorrow; but joy, full, satisfying, unclouded, and unmingled with anything that would diminish its fullness or its brightness.
Matthew 21:23 reminds us, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” How might your Christmas plans change if you were to visualize Jesus with you this year? How might your attitude change if you were to visualize Jesus with you this year?
Praise God for the gift of His presence. Talk to Him in prayer today as if He were sitting across
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. – Psalm 98:3 (ESV)
During an earthquake some years ago, the inhabitants of a small village were generally very much alarmed, but they were at the same time surprised at the calmness and apparent joy of an old woman whom they all knew. At length, one of them addressing the old woman said, “Mother, are you not afraid?” “No,” said the woman, “I rejoice to know that I have a God who can shake the world.” (Ron Crow)
God shook the world when Jesus was born. The Psalmist rejoiced in Psalm 98:3 because He knew God would not forget or abandon His people. The birth of Jesus was a fulfilment of that promise. Pastor Brian Bell wrote, “Long before the Public Broadcasting Services, we have the 1st Public announcement of the good news of Jesus’ birth.” In Luke 2:10 the angels announced “good news of great joy” to lowly shepherds concerning the birth of Jesus. In that moment, the shepherd’s “mega-fear” is replaced with “mega-joy.” Joy, the way God intended, was lost in the garden of Eden when sin entered the world. But God had a plan to restore joy through the birth of His own Son. And the joy of the Savior’s birth was for all the world, including low class shepherds.
During the Christmas season it’s easy to be swept along by the flood of frenzied gift-buying. Our motive may be commendable—we want to show our love for family and friends. We may even argue that the exchange of expensive presents reflects God’s gift to us of His Son and is a way to spread joy. However, how long does the joy of Christmas gift exchanges typically last? When was the last time you allowed God to replace your greatest fears with His great joy?
The song “O Holy Night” describes how the “weary world rejoices” at the birth of Christ. Look up the lyrics and let that be your song of praise today.
JOY IS COMING
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. – Psalm 98:8-9 (ESV)
I think it was my barber who told me several years ago what they used to do, at Christmas time, when their kids were small. He said, “We had the most curious kids in the world. And we knew no matter what we did, they would find the gifts. So, one year, we had a deal with our neighbors. We decided we would keep all the neighbors’ presents in our closet, and we would give all of our gifts to the neighbors. Naturally the kids would peek, but we acted like we didn’t know about it. And then Christmas Eve, when all the kids were asleep, we swapped and wrapped all the gifts.” And he said, “You should have seen my kids when they looked out in the street and saw bicycles being ridden that they thought they were gonna get for their Christmas!” (Charles Swindoll)
Expectations have always been a part of Christmas morning. Psalm 98:8-9 encouraged all Creation to have joy at the expected return of Christ. The source of joy would be the knowledge that Jesus was coming to right all wrongs. When Zechariah 9 was written, Israel had no king. But they were told to rejoice because their King was coming. He would bring joy because He would be a good king, righteous, victorious and humble. The fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 began on Christmas morning and continued with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus knew that prophecy and knew that it would need to be fulfilled.
Jesus is described as a King who is “righteous, victorious, and humble.” Which descriptive word means the most to you this year? As Jesus rode into Jerusaleum He wept. He wept because, as Luke records, he says, “you did not know the time of your visitation.” So many people missed the significance of Jesus’ arrival. How might you be missing the significance of Christmas this year?
Praise God for the gift of fulfilled prophecy. Praise Jesus for the hope we have of His return and the joy He will bring.
A MOTHER’S JOY
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, – Luke 1:46-47 (ESV)
Two women who were having lunch in an elegant hotel were approached by a mutual friend who asked the occasion for the meal. One lady replied, “We are celebrating the birth of my baby boy.” “But where is he?” inquired the friend. “Oh,” said the mother, “you didn’t think I’d bring him, did you?” (Source Unknown)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is celebrating the birth of Jesus in Luke 1 and she would never think of leaving him out of the celebration. Luke 1:46 is called the Magnificat because the first word of it in Latin is magnificat, which means “magnifies.” In Greek it also means “makes great.” Mary is making a big deal about Jesus in her womb. Her soul rejoices. Mary’s entire being was affected by the presence of Jesus in her womb. “Rejoices” literally means to “jump much” or we might say “to leap for joy.” The idea is Mary demonstrated her excessive, ecstatic joy by leaping and skipping (if not literally certainly feeling like it!). Mary knew her need! Mary was not sinless, but like every human being born in the line of Adam was in desperate need for a Savior to save her from the wages of sin which are eternal death. She rejoiced knowing the baby in her womb would bring salvation to all who believed.
What are some of the reasons a typical expectant mother might rejoice? How might a typical expectant mother “magnify” or make a big deal about the child she is expecting? How can you reflect that same expectancy as you celebrate Christmas?
Make a big deal about God in your prayer time today. Praise Him for the characteristics that make Him worthy of worship.