A Psalm of Lament for Christmas

This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why we have joy at Christmas. This is why we could say with David, “My heart shall rejoice in your salvation!” This is why the angels in heaven rejoiced at the birth of Christ, because his birth was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Scripture Readings: Psalm 13 (text); Matthew 1:21-25; Luke 2:8-14
December 6, 2009 (First posted October 15, 2008)
Songs: Psalm 30; Psalm 13; “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (Click each song to sing along)
Liturgy: Click here.
Printer-friendly PDF file of this sermon: Click here.

Saul Attacking David by Guercino, 1646
Saul Attacking David by Guercino, 1646 (click to enlarge)

Today, we assemble together knowing that our brethren, Warren and particularly Cheer and their families, grieve over the loss of Cheer’s father, Mr. Roy Antonio. Mr. Antonio was a faithful servant of Christ, a loving husband, a nurturing father, and a loyal friend. Warren described Mr. Antonio with these words,

He was God’s gift to us—being instrumental in the bringing forth of my wife into the world and raising her up in a manner that has benefited me as her husband and our kids as their mother—with his felicities transcending kinfolk, spilling over to the many people he has touched through the preaching of the Word, his social advocacies, and his long, drawn-out story-telling.

What makes it more difficult for them is that his death was very sudden.

Some Christians have the wrong notion that when their beloved ones die, they should not grieve and mourn because they are now “in a better place” (assuming that they were also Christians). But the Bible is full of people of faith who mourned over the death of their beloved ones for many days after their loss. Jacob mourned over Joseph (not knowing that he was not dead). David mourned over his newborn child who died because of his own sin. Many of the psalms speak of God’s people mourning and sorrowing over sin and suffering.

In our text today, we read of David sorrowing over his sufferings. We may picture David as he laid awake deep in the night, unable to sleep, in a dark, damp cave in the wilderness of Engedi near the Dead Sea, wrestling with his thoughts. It seemed so long ago when, as a young teen, the prophet Samuel anointed him to be next king of Israel. He had all his plans laid out to be a great king then. King of Israel? How can he be a king now, a fugitive for many years, running from city to city trying to escape death by the sword of King Saul? His throne is a rock in this cold, dark cave, his kingdom a ragtag band of hungry men. Once, he had been a loyal servant of the king, playing music for him, fighting his battles, adored by the people. “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” the people sang. Now, feeling abandoned by God after many long years of running for his life, David cries out to God, “How long?” four times.

Why is David, a man after God’s own heart, sorrowing? Our text does not say why, but we know that David had many sufferings all throughout his life. He was continuously beset by persecution and distress before and after he ascended to the kingship of Israel. As an outlaw pursued by a jealous king, he fled from one hiding place to the next. As a king himself, his first son with Bathsheba died as penalty for his adulterous and murderous relationship with her. Later, his own beloved son Absalom forced him to flee from his throne in Jerusalem to live once more as a fugitive. Any of these occasions, in which his life hung by a thread through sword, hunger, or sickness, could have been the occasion for writing psalms of lament that bear the name of David (Psa 6, 22, 35, 51, 69).

David’s prayer in Psalm 13 is a prayer of one who feels abandoned by God and desperate. It is a lament, a cry of complaint, sorrow and grief.

Today is the first Lord’s Day of the Advent season, and you may be wondering why preach from a psalm of lament on this “season of joy”? To keep you interested—and in suspense—that will be the last point in this sermon.

Psalm 13, like many other psalms of lament, follows a certain pattern: first, a complaint to the Lord of being abandoned and forgotten (verses 1-2); second, a plea for deliverance (verses 3-4); and third, a praise for the Lord’s salvation and steadfast love (verses 5-6).

Read the rest of the sermon here.