[God] provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
Psalm 111:9 (NIV)
Scholars believe that the lyrics of today’s psalm (and tomorrow’s) were likely written by the same lyricist in “post-exilic” Israel. In the years after King David and his son, Solomon, ruled, the nation of Israel split into two nations (the northern kingdom of Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah). The kingdom of Israel was eventually besieged by the Assyrian army. The southern kingdom was defeated by the Babylonians. The temple of Solomon was largely destroyed along with the walls of Jerusalem, and their best and brightest were hauled off into exile in Babylon (e.g. the story of Daniel). Eventually, a remnant returned to rebuild the walls (e.g. the story of Nehemiah). Psalms 111 and 112 were likely written in this period of time when the exiles had returned to their home.
As I read and write this morning I am in Christmas hangover. We’ve spent a wonderful few days with family and friends. Gifts have been opened. Time has been spent with loved ones. There has been plenty of feasting, and my body is feeling the effects of it. Wendy and I have spent time in worship, remembering Jesus’ birth, and have served in worship. It’s been a great week.
In the bright wrapping of a story about a new baby, shepherds, angels, and wise men, it is easy to lose sight of the ultimate purpose this Christmas chapter plays in the epic story God is telling in history. God is a purposeful author, and I have observed that he layers history with recurring themes. The people of Judah had lived as slaves in exile, and God had provided redemption in returning them home. The whole of God’s story is about all of humanity being enslaved by our own wrong choices and exiled from our Creator and our spiritual home. God himself provides redemption:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
The larger story of Christmas is the story of God’s Son choosing exile on this Earth in the form of human flesh, in order to ransom and redeem we who cannot redeem ourselves:
[Jesus] had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Philippians 2:6-8 (MSG)
Today, I’m thinking of the interweaving layers and themes of God’s Message and story. I’m thinking about the celebration of gifts given and a baby born here in December, and how quickly it gives way to the commemoration of the death that same baby suffered and died just a few months later. I am thinking about old things passing away, about redemption, and about new things coming with a new year.