Sermon 1688 Psalm 98.1-4 December 25, 2019
Oh, I got some new socks—just like the old socks I wore out.
Oh, I got a new car. Yup, another Blahblahdeblah. It looks almost like the old one. I am pretty loyal to that make.
Got a new doll for Christmas. A Barbie!
Saw a new movie. Oh, which one? Midway? Jumanji, Zombieland? Star Wars?
No, a new one--Frozen II.
Going to Cali for New Year’s. Got the same place on the beach in San Diego as we did the last few years.
Went to that new restaurant in town. You know the one. They have one on the Strip and another in Summerlin.
What’s new? It is hard to actually think what is new. Oh, to those who are new, everything is new. But once you’ve been around the block sixty, well, let’s just say, a lot of times, there is very little that you’ve never seen before.
Yet the Lord commands us today to sing a new song, and, because of the wise, old hands who put together the lists of Scripture to be read in church, this new song is a Christmas song. What’s in that last box under the tree that we haven’t gotten to open yet? Let’s find out.
Sing to the LORD a Christmas Song.
Wonderful Salvation (1).
Clearly promised (3a).
Clearly seen (2, 3b).
“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 (1).”
There is something new under the sun. There is something new under the Christmas tree. It is something marvelous, truly miraculous, beyond anything and everything we could ever expect or predict. It comes from the LORD. Now, that’s the special name for God. It was regarded as so holy the Old Testament Jews didn’t even say it when they were reading the Scriptures. They substituted another word for it. “My Master.” But the name we translate LORD means God’s unchangeable promise to save his people and send a Savior. The Promised Savior promises to come. So, anytime we see that LORD in front of us, it’s a good bet that if we think of our Beautiful Savior, our Jesus, we are on the right track. Sing to Jesus a new song.
Jesus has done something new. The psalmist says the LORD’s “right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” We hit the target when we thought of Jesus. He is at the right hand of God, using all the power of the Godhead for the benefit of you and me, his Church on earth. He has all the authority and honor, too. That’s also the meaning of the right hand of God. And as far as holiness goes, well, because Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, he is the only one, after the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin, he is the only one who came into this world holy and sinless, free from the sinful human nature.
Jesus has accomplished salvation. That’s what makes this new. Everybody in the world recognizes there is sin. Everybody knows things must change. Everybody knows. But how do you get rid of sin? Everybody knows it always boils down to the same, old solutions. We have to do something about it. We have to be extra good to make up for the bad we’ve done. We have to grow so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. We have to do something, anything. And hopefully, it will be enough. That’s works. You have to work your way to heaven. It doesn’t matter what those works are, whether they are religious works, physical hardship on the body works or social works, you have to do something, anything. And hopefully, it will be enough.
And yet, sin remains. Everybody knows it. After all these days and years and centuries, we have not moved that needle on sin one bit. Everybody knows it. But Jesus has accomplished salvation. That’s new. He did not do it by demanding we come to him. He came to us. He did not come to us as manifest God, with a supernatural glory, a heavenly aura about him that knocked people over the head so everyone was stumbling over themselves to do him favors. He came to us as a baby. He came to us in humility. He came to us in poverty. Being born in a stable and laid in a manger was one of the first tip-offs about that. Come to think of it, a single mother was another tip-off. None of the gossips in Nazareth were going to believe what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. Only Joseph believed and he took great pains to shield Mary from public shame. Yes, Jesus came in humility to be one of us, to be our replacement in God’s eyes. Of all the sons of Adam, Jesus did not sin. Of all the sons of Eve, only Jesus was holy. God the Father credited that holiness to our account. He treated us, through faith, as though we had done all the wonderful things Jesus had done. And then, at the end of that life, Jesus would die on the cross, spears, nails, will pierce him through, the cross he’ll bear for me, for you. Name him Jesus, Joseph. For he will save his people from their sins. That’s new! That’s wonderful! That’s salvation!
Sing to the LORD a Christmas Song. It is clearly promised.
“He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel (3a).”
God’s Old Testament people knew why they existed. Even in their glory years, under King David, they were not the biggest. They were not the baddest. They were not the smartest. They were the LORD’s people. They were the ones to whom the LORD spoke. He had made an agreement with them. He would be their God and they would be his people. He had given them his commandments to follow. Even when they broke his commandments, he forgave them for the sake of the Savior to come. He spoke promise after promise after promise. He promised the Savior would be born of a virgin. He promised the Savior would come from the line of King David. His promises were so clear, even people who were rather disinterested, say, the scholars so religiously lax that they could hold their noses as they served the wicked and murderous King Herod, even they knew the Savior would be born in Bethlehem in the county of Ephrathah, just ten miles southwest of Jerusalem. They knew he would be born a king, king of the Jews, no matter how much King Herod huffed and puffed.
But that’s the way it is. You can’t do things in a corner. Only fools spring things on people. That’s the best way to be ignored. How many inventions were invented twice, once by a genius “who was before his time,” and then somebody else comes and finds a way to make everybody go nuts over what he is making? They say there were twenty people who invented the electric light bulb in the seventy years before old Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, came along. The LORD didn’t make that mistake. Over the centuries he built his case, prophecy by prophecy, so that his people not only expected the Savior, they would know when the Savior came he was the Savior. God built his case so that his people living before the birth of Jesus would have hope. Their many sins would be forgiven. The LORD would provide the Savior. Believe in him and you will be saved even now.
Bethlehem, the Virgin Mary, Nazareth, the star, the flight to Egypt when the angel warned Joseph in a dream that Herod would come and try to kill the baby Jesus, it was all clearly predicted. In fact, that’s how Matthew wrote his Gospel. He simply told the story of Jesus and whenever the LORD’s Old Testament promises were fulfilled in the life of Christ, Matthew quoted it. It was as easy to follow as those “how to” videos on YouTube. If you cared. If you believed. Mary cared. Joseph believed. So did the shepherds. So did many people in Bethlehem whom the shepherds talked to that first Christmas Day, all those who were awaiting the salvation of Israel.
Sing to the LORD a Christmas song. It is clearly seen.
“The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God (2, 3b).”
How big does something have to be that even the blind see it? Well, they weren’t physically blind, but that’s how God’s Old Testament people looked at the nations, the Gentiles, the ends of the earth. God’s people had the Bible, their Old Testament. They knew what God wanted of them. They knew what God had promised to them. They had the very words of God. The nations, the nations worshipped magic, power, superstition. Today’s illusionists in town could have been treated like gods on earth if they had lived back then and played their cards right. Throw a little money into this temple, pray a bit to that god, don’t forget to pour out that first sip of wine to this other goddess. A little here, a little there and with luck, something might go your way, unless somebody cast a spell on you. How could spiritual beasts like this even comprehend what God had in store for them? They didn’t even have a clear concept of life after death. They thought everybody went to hell, because only the gods lived in heaven. No wonder they lived like pigs. No wonder they made fun of God’s people for the care and concern they showed in living upright and godly lives while they walked the face of this earth. “Where’s the fun in that?” the Gentiles thought.
The LORD created a visible Christmas miracle, not as mighty a miracle as his Son, the Son of God, putting on human flesh and blood, but a mighty Christmas miracle nonetheless. He created a special star that shone in the east. Wise Men, Magi, they were called in Babylon, saw this special star, this new star, and remembered what God’s Old Testament people had told them. “A star will rise out of Jacob. A ruler will come forth.” This was the star. The ruler had been born among God’s people. They must follow the star and find him. And they did. And they gave him princely gifts, gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.
They would not be the last. Over and over again in the 2000 years of the ensuing Christian era, people who knew not a thing about the Bible would hear of the salvation the baby Jesus came to bring. Instead of death, there was life. “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the LORD Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and all your household.” More miracles would come. Apostles would raise the dead, drive out demons and make the lame walk. Lesser miracles would make, perhaps even greater impacts on the Gentiles as Christians stayed behind in times of plagues and cared for the afflicted and the dying, saving many who would otherwise have perished. The early Christians would show such consideration towards each other that it would be a spotlight for their faith. “See how they love one another!” the Gentiles would respond.
Those in the know, God’s Old Testament people, believed. Those absolutely in the dark, the Gentiles, believed. God’s wonderful salvation produced wonder upon wonder as a new people of God arose who, century after century, would delight to
Sing to the LORD a Christmas Song
Wonderful Salvation (1).
Clearly promised (3a).
Clearly seen (2, 3b).
What’s new? Christmas! And because of Christmas, everything is new.