The Most Christmasy Book in the Bible Isn’t What You Think

Christmas bible

We’re celebrating Advent by giving away dozens of free books and beautiful Advent Art and featuring great articles on the meaning of this season of anticipation. In this post, Logos Pro Mark Ward explores what may be the most “Christmasy” book in the Bible.

What do you think is the most “Christmasy” book in the New Testament?

The obvious frontrunners are Matthew and Luke, especially their opening portions. One of the reasons these books will show up so often in Christmas-time sermons and Bible studies is that they were so self-conscious in their desire to continue the story of Israel begun in the Old Testament. Think of the way the words of Mary and Zechariah in Luke 1 both refer back to God’s promises to Abraham.

They knew their Bibles. They knew to anticipate the advent of a Messiah, though neither could have possibly known the role they would individually play in that coming.

That’s why Christmasy books such as Matthew include special quotations from the Old Testament:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matt 1:23; cf. Isa 7:14)

But if self-conscious continuation of the Old Testament story is what makes a book Christmasy, there’s another New Testament book that needs to be discussed. It’s a book which focuses heavily on Jesus and shows how the Old Testament pointed forward to his coming. I encourage you to consider using this book in your Christmas sermons and lessons this year, even in your personal advent Bible reading. It’s the book of Hebrews.

This video will show you how to explore the connections in Hebrews between the Old and New Testaments. Stick around after the video to talk through some specific examples.

Psalm 110 and Christ’s first advent

Hebrews includes a whopping ten references to Psalm 110, seven of which refer to Jesus.

A little Hebrew knowledge is key to interpreting this psalm, specifically the all-important opening line of verse 1—which just so happens to be the most quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament.

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

In Psalm 110:1 we find two Lords. One is referred to as Yahweh (יהוה). By a tradition that goes back at least to Luther, this covenant name of God (cf. Isa 42:8a) is translated with “LORD” in all caps. The other is referred to as Adonai, and by that same tradition, it is translated with “Lord” in title case. This word can refer to human lords and masters (see Isa 24:2b).

So in Psalm 110:1, “the LORD says to my Lord” is, in Hebrew, “Yahweh says to my Adonai.”

Unquestionably, this first LORD is the creator-God himself, the Holy One of Israel. But who is the second “Lord”?

To answer that question, notice what Yahweh says to David’s Adonai: Yahweh promises this Lord the place of honor at his right hand, and then urges/promises him, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Who does that sound like? Who gets to sit next to God’s throne and gets to himself be a king?

When David wrote this psalm he could not have known quite how Yahweh would use David’s own lineage to bring about this rule. He couldn’t have known the role Christmas would play in bringing God’s anointed King.

Christ as king

Evangelical Christians tend to think of Christ’s incarnation, entirely properly, as bringing salvation. The one inspired interpreter of the incarnation who had the closest connection to it, Mary herself, opened her beautiful Magnificat with praise to God her “Savior” (Lk 1:47). Later, at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah praises God for “rais[ing] up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Lk 1:69).

But both Mary and Zechariah also saw political significance in Christ’s first advent. The salvation they saw—and this is especially true of Zechariah’s prayer—was not merely spiritual. Mary prays, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones” (Lk 1:52). And look at how Zechariah defines “salvation” as he continues his prayer:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

When Zechariah said “salvation” in that prayer, he meant physical deliverance “from the hand of all who hate us.” Mary and Zechariah saw through prophetic eyes that Jesus would rule, that he would be King.

Back to Psalm 110

This brings us back to Psalm 110, and quotations of it in the book of Hebrews. Mary and Zechariah (and many faithful children of Abraham before them) looked forward to Christ’s coming with eager anticipation—and so should we. As we remember Christ’s first advent this Christmas season, we should stoke our anticipation of his second advent. We need salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, too—even as we pray that they will share in the gracious salvation we enjoy. And though Christ is now ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psalm 110:2), we must long for the day when the LORD will say to our Lord Jesus Christ, “I have now finally made your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Psalm 110:1; cf. 1 Cor 15:24–26).

The incarnation marks the first scene in the climactic act of God’s redemptive drama. It is right to celebrate that scene. But Mary and Zechariah knew what we ought to know, that there is more work for the Christ to do.

This Advent, revel in the rich interplay of Old Testament and New Testament themes the season affords us.

mark ward
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.

***

We’re celebrating Advent by giving away 24 resources, absolutely free! Click on the image above to reveal today’s featured resource. Check back every day for a new free book and beautiful art based on Christmas carols and hymns. Get your free book and Await the Wonder of Christ’s advent.

Comments

  1. Lars Kierspel says:

    Why is this interactive tool not in my collection?

    • Tyler Smith says:

      Hi, Lars. This interactive is available in Logos Now. With a subscription to Logos Now, you get the latest tools and features (Like the NT Use of the OT Interactive) as soon as we’ve created them. That means you don’t have to wait until the next major Logos release to start using those features in your Bible study. You can get your first month free, so a lot of our customers start their subscription, then decide if they want to keep it after trying it out. (The overwhelming majority find that it’s well worth it.) You can start your subscription at logos.com/now.

      Let me know if you have any more questions. I’m always happy to help!

      Best,

      Tyler

  2. Trying to figure out how Heb. 1:10-12 works with Psa. 102:25-27. . . .

  3. David Potete says:

    It is very disappointing that this is not available without a subscription.

    • That was my initial thought, too. But I’ve come to believe it’s the wrong spin; or rather, that you need to spin it 180º further. Logos Now features didn’t have to be released “early” at all. The program was designed to get the latest tools out to customers sooner than they otherwise would be. I’m super careful with my book budget. But as a daily Bible student myself, I can say that I actually use key Logos Now features. That’s why I keep blogging about them.

      • David Potete says:

        The are more possible ways to approach this. It is true that it didn’t have to be released early. But it was. And to only make it available for subscribers is not the option I would have chosen. That being said, I do love my Logos – but I will not be going the subscription route.