Good News of Great Joy
Caesar Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar was the emperor who issued a decree that everyone under his rule should be taxed. He needed money to raise an army to control his vast empire and also to live in luxury. He attempted to make himself a god, and wanted to be worshipped. He was fulfilling the prophecy of Micah so that Joseph and Mary could go to Bethlehem to register for taxation (Micah 5:2). He was merely a tool in God’s hand so that the baby in the womb of Mary would establish a kingdom which will never come to an end. The angel’s message to the shepherds was “tidings of great joy.” Therefore, the gospel is “good news,” as the Greek word literally means. Let us look at some points why it is good news for us even today.
I. THE GOOD NEWS REMOVED FEAR (vs. 10)
It is only natural that the humble shepherds would have been in fear when the invisible, the unknown, suddenly became visible to them. The angel said, “Fear not,” but he did not leave them there. He gave the reason why they did not need to fear. He told them the “glorious tidings” that a Messiah was born. We have four “fear-nots” stated by angels in the context of the birth of John the Baptist as the fore runner and of the Lord Jesus.
(i) Fear not of salvation: (Luke 2:10, 11) The angel told the shepherds they need not be afraid as the
Savior was born for them. God sent his best gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is our salvation
and peace (Eph 2:12-14).
(ii) Fear not of the humanly impossible: (Luke 1:30, 35, 37) Mary asked Gabriel how would she bear a child for she was virgin. He answered her by saying that the “Holy Spirit will come upon her and the
power of the Almighty will overshadow her…For nothing is impossible with God.”
(iii) Fear not of unanswered prayer: (Luke 1:13) Zacharias, the priest and his wife Elizabeth must have been praying to God for a child. They were growing old and yet without the answer to their prayers. The angel informed them the good news that their petitions have been heard and Elizabeth would bear a son; and he would give him the name John.
(iv) Fear not for immediate obedience: (Matt 1:20, 24) When Joseph was planning to secretly divorce
his betrothed wife Mary who was with a child, God revealed his plan to Joseph in his dream. He immediately obeyed the Lord and took Mary as his wife.
II. THE GOOD NEWS BROUGHT GREAT JOY (vs. 10)
The angel informed them the tidings of great joy which is for all the people. The King of glory did not enter this world with pomp and glory but in the weakest and smallest way, as a baby. The good news is the source of great joy, all through human history. It is the great joy of light; “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land of shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” (Matt 4:16). The hope of the centuries has been fulfilled. For this reason, the good news is joyful to all the people; especially to those who looked forward to His coming. He, who was born, will save them from sin and death. He will give blessedness of joy to those who will receive Him.
This joy is what Max Lucado called “Sacred delight.” In his book The Applause of Heaven, he stated that the Lord was in poverty; he never owned even the most basic mode of transportation and was dependent upon the handouts for his income. He knew what it meant to have no home…. He was accused of a crime he never committed. Witnesses were hired to lie. The jury was rigged. No lawyer was assigned to his defense.
A judge swayed by politics handed down the death penalty. They killed him. He left as he came, penniless. He was buried in a borrowed grave, his funeral financed by compassionate friends. He should have been miserable. He should have been bitter. He had every right to be a pot of boiling anger. But he wasn’t. He was joyful. He was joyful when he was poor. He was joyful when he was abandoned. He was joyful when he was betrayed. He was even joyful as he hung on a tool of torture, his hands pierced with six-inch Roman spikes. Jesus embodied a stubborn joy (p.8-9). Those who are willing to depend completely on him will also experience this joy in the midst of hardships and trials. For, He is the source of great joy.
III. THE GOOD NEWS IS SALVATION (VS. 11)
The good news is that a Savior was born. The angel used three names to identify the One who would bring this salvation. First, “Savior,” a Hebrew word meaning rescuer, then “Christ,” a Greek word for “the anointed one, the chosen one.” He is the fulfiller of the promises of God and the One who has been anointed by God as the great Prophet, Priest and King. The third was a word used by Greek speaking Hebrews to refer to God Himself. So Jesus is to be the rescuer, the anointed one, God Himself.
Man is sinking in the mud of sin and there is no way out unless a rescuer, a savior comes to help. The Psalmist exclaimed this experience when he said, “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay. And set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm” (Ps. 40:2-3). The pit is called by different names such as horrible pit, pit of noise, the desolate pit and the pit of tumult. The miry clay is a clinging clay that one can easily entangle and slip into it.
Man is under the bondage of sin. Without the Savior, he is enslaved without any hope of liberation. Man may break away from the bondage of ignorance, may even fly out into the space beyond the law of gravity. Yet, apart from the Rescuer; he is a slave of sin (John 8:34). Only the Son of God can give us true freedom from sin (John 8:36). If you are in Christ you are a new creation (II Cor. 5:17). Your sins are forgiven. Your guilt is atoned for. Your past is removed. Your future is secured. You have peace in your heart. You have purpose in your step. You have a song on your lips. You are saved from hell. You are put right with God. You are going to heaven. But you must be born again! That’s God’s gospel (Anne Graham Lotz, Just Give me Jesus, p. 70).
IV. THE GOOD NEWS GIVES REAL AND LASTING PEACE (vs. 14)
The host of angelic choir presented a special song singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” They predicted that this peace will come when we give glory to God in the highest. Peace does not come when the arms race ends. Peace will not come by treaties and peace accord. The angels give us the precondition for peace; that we give glory to God in the highest.
The tragedy with our world today is that we have made war glorious and peace dull and uninteresting. We have glamorized war; we have turned this peaceful earth into a place of terror and hatred. We have deitified and idolized the suicide bombers and the religious fundamentalists. Peace is the gift of God in the person of Jesus Christ; our hearts yearn for this Prince of Peace.
It is very surprising that this glorious message of peace was given to the lowly and the despised shepherds. They were outcastes from the respectable society as they could not keep the commandments of the law. Their honesty and integrity were questionable so they were not allowed to testify in the court of law. To them, God revealed the birth of his Son and the purpose of his mission, that is, peace on earth.
Real and lasting peace is from God and not of the world. When Christ was born, some form of external peace (the “pax Romana”) did prevail. The emperors of those days might have provided a semblance of peace by suppressing and subduing other nations; they could not and cannot give peace of mind. The Prince of Peace will give inner harmony and tranquility wherever he rules.
Kennon Callahan, in his book Twelve Keys for Living (Callahan, 1999. p.81) stated that those who have received this peace from God are mighty instruments in the hand of God in transforming our neighborhood and the world. Let us realize our position and role in bringing about peace wherever we are living.
Hope is stronger than memory
We are the people of hope.
The cradle of Bethlehem is stronger than thrones of kings;
We are the people of Bethlehem.
The new born Savior is stronger than the armies of the world;
We are the people of new life.
God leads us in new paths of leadership and mission;
We are leaders in God’s mission.
Light is stronger than darkness;
We are people of light.
We are the Christmas people
We are the people of wonder and joy, Amen.
Dr.J.M. Ngul Khan Pau