SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 9:2-7; 1 John 4:9-16; Luke 2:1-20
“Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”
More than any other day of the year, this day is associated with joy. For, the things that we most connect with joy – being with those we love; good food; inspiring music to hear and songs to sing; gifts shared as expressions of love; and, above all, wonderful news – all come together on this day. This is all a taste of what life in this world must have been like at the beginning of creation, for God created our world and our lives to be a reflection of and participation in His eternal joy.
Why isn’t it always like this? And, why doesn’t joy fill the hearts of everyone on this day? There are many reasons, but behind them all and prompting them all stands one: the devil. The devil, with his deceit and temptations and evil works has brought doubt and fear and sadness into this world. God has responded with Christmas. As tonight’s reading from 1 John tells us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
It was with words of doubt and worry that the devil first brought an end to joy and created fear. And so, it is with joyful news that God overcomes fear and sadness and restores joy. “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people!” Think of Jesus’ birth in this way: it is the coming of joy!
To you is born a Savior! Write these words large. Take them deeply into your hearts and remember them always. A baby was born to you! – and, not just any baby. He is the Lord God Himself! And He has come to give Himself to you.
It makes such a difference when you believe this! Apart from this news we have doubts about God, and doubts lead to worry and fear. Apart from this news we’re left with uncertainty, for we can’t see or hear God. We know in our hearts that He’s far greater and wiser and more powerful than us, but we don’t understand what He does and the things He allows to happen. If He were to suddenly appear… well, even the appearance of a servant of His is frightening.
The shepherds were filled with fear when God’s angel appeared to them.
You can understand this. How do you feel when a cop appears in your rear view mirror? “Why’s he there? I don’t think I was doing anything wrong!” The sudden appearance of authority is worrisome. Well, who has more authority than God? Who sees and knows our every doubt and denial and sin and disobedience better than God? If He comes to punish us… well, we’re all in trouble! How striking it is when the message you hear is far different, and far better, than what you expect.
A few weeks ago several drivers in Lowell, MI had the experience of being pulled over by a cop. They were nervous and defensive… until the officer presented them, not with tickets, but with wrapped Christmas presents. Their anger and worry and fear quickly changed to joy!
“Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy! To you is born a Savior!” This is the extraordinary news that God speaks to us this night. How dramatically this wonderful news changed the shepherds. Even more dramatically does this news change our lives!
When your sin and guilt before God and the fear of His rightful punishment confront you, oppose them with God’s message and say, “I have a Savior! To me Jesus was born!” His coming as a helpless infant shows that God loves us and wants to help us, and we have nothing to fear from Him. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and Him there is nothing but peace, for He came to offer His life for us on a cross to forgive our sins!
When fears and worries about life in this world in general, or your life in particular, arise – and they do, for there is so much sin and evil and hatred and just plain trouble in this world – oppose them with God’s message and say, “I have a Savior! To me Jesus was born!” And, “The government is upon his shoulder,” says Isaiah 9. He is with you to take care of you, and one day He will set all things right.
When the frailty and the shortness of life and the fear of death confront you – as they have this very day in our congregation, as Catherine Darragh, Jack Kleis’s sister, died yesterday – oppose them with God’s message and say, “I have a Savior! To me Jesus was born!” He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. He comes to us with an everlasting life that triumphs over death and raises us from it!
“I have a Savior! To me Jesus was born!” This is not only what you can say; it is what God wants you to say and, like Mary, to ponder in your heart. Consider that it was not to the exalted of this world; nor to the wise and learned; nor to the wealthy and influential that God sent His holy angel to announce the news of His Son’s birth and direct to His manger. It was to poor, simple, lowly shepherds. It was also not into a rich and powerful family that Jesus was born, but to a poor family who had to leave their home and travel for many days because of the decree of the great and mighty. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger because there was no room for them, no friend to take them in. God sent forth His Son to be born among the lowly, and it was to the lowly that He sent the news.
This news is our joy, a joy that changes our lives. We are given just a foretaste of this change now in our gatherings with those we love, with our sharing of good food, the inspiring music we hear and songs we sing, and in the gifts we give and receive. Sharing in the joyous news of Jesus’ birth is the main thing, for by it the devil and his evil is overcome and we are raised up to a new and eternal life. Life as God intended it at the beginning is being restored, a foretaste of the great restoration that will take place when He comes down to us again, this time in power and great glory, and we sing with His angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men!”