“Christmas Message: The Gospel of Great Joy”

Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:10)

I do love this story, everything about it.

I love to think of the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem that dark, dark night, standing around passing the time with idle chatter. Farm boys can tell you it gets mighty dark away from the city lights. Was there a chill in the air too?

Suddenly, the sky is ablaze with light, as though Heaven’s floodlights had been switched on. Furthermore, someone was standing in the thin air perhaps 50 feet away. The radiance emanating from him indicated he was an angel.

No wonder the angel began his soliloquy as they always seemed to: Fear not! Who wouldn’t fear?

The shepherds heard those words, but it’s one thing to be told not to be afraid and another one altogether to stop your knees from knocking and your teeth from chattering. Restarting your heart is another matter altogether.

Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)

There it is–the best news that has ever been delivered at one place in one short paragraph.

The angel called it “good news.” And so it is. The best ever.

Continue reading

10 Things About the Christmas Story You May Have Missed

They were not “kings” from the east and there wasn’t three of them. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus were not still in the stable, but in a house, contrary to half the Christmas cards that will be arriving at your house.

And there’s no indication there were cattle in that stable or anywhere nearby. In fact, the only thing that leads us to believe Jesus was born in a stable is that Luke 2:7 tells us Mary laid the Baby in a manger, a feeding trough.

But you knew all this.

And you knew that all of this was predicted through the centuries by God’s prophets. We particularly treasure the promises of Isaiah 7:17 (“Behold a virgin shall conceive….”) and 9:6-7 (“For unto us a child is born….”), as well as Micah 5:2 (“Bethlehem…out of you shall come forth One to be Ruler over Israel…”).

And you knew that, contrary to the Christmas hymn “The First Noel,” the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields did not “looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far.” (Modern hymnals have revised that line to read “For all to see there was a star….”)

But, allow me to point out some aspects of this wonderful story it’s possible you might have missed. There is no particular order intended.

Continue reading