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.
What exactly is ‘News’?
Our culture is news-fixated these days. We get it 24/7 over the television cables and in a hundred other ways. What do we mean by “news”?
–It’s Recent. Either it just happened or we just found out about it. The anchor may tell of an Egyptian tomb being excavated. The tomb is thousands of years old, but we just uncovered it.
–It’s Important. The news must be relevant to us in some way, otherwise it will not make the Evening News or the front page. That’s why we read about the economy, traffic, crime, and scientific breakthroughs. They all have to do with how we live.
–It’s True. News-gathering organizations work hard to confirm that a thing is true before publishing it or putting it on the air. On the inside of our local newspaper, every morning we find a few “Corrections.” In yesterday’s newspaper, some reporter got a street name wrong or mis-identified a perpetrator.
And in this case, one more thing:
–It’s Good. Good news is the kind we like best and get the least. But this is the News from Heaven.
Put it all together and it should say “RITG” but where’s the fun in that? How about TRIG? Ditto. GRIT, now, that’s another matter. TRUE GRIT. Now, you’re talking!
I am fascinated by the announcement of the angel: ‘Ladies and gentlemen: We have a Savior!’
Contrary to what some people thought then and still believe today, the news from Heaven is good: There is a Savior, His name is Jesus, and He is in the saving business.
Keeping in mind that “good news” is the same word translated throughout the New Testament as “Gospel,” we see the angel said he had come to bring a Gospel of Great Joy.
It is that. But it’s far more.
THE GOSPEL OF GREAT LOVE. This the motivation behind what God did in Christ.
You cannot take in the incredible story of God coming to Earth in human form to redeem us without asking the obvious question: “Why in the world would He do that? What drives such a God?”
The short answer is: Love.
The long answer is the same: He loves us.
The Lord did not set His love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you….(He) redeemed you….” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
Get that? Why did God redeem us? Because He loved us. And why did He love us? Because He loved us.
It’s love all the way through to the bottom.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God! (I John 3:1)
John 3:16 you are well-acquainted with: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
And then, there is Romans 5:8: God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
No other reason than love is found in the Word of God. He did all He did with the purest of motives: love.
THE GOSPEL OF GREAT SALVATION. This is a summation of what God did in Christ.
The books of the New Testament ransack the human language in search of enough verbs to describe this full salvation which Heaven has provided for us through Jesus Christ. Here are some of them….
By His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, here are some of the blessings:
–He loved us.
–He prayed for us.
–He gave us grace.
–He gave us mercy.
–He saved us.
–He forgave our sin.
–We are washed in the blood of the Lamb.
–He cleansed us of our sin.
–Our sins are atoned for.
–They are buried in the deepest sea.
–They were nailed to the cross.
–They are removed from us as far as the east is from the west!
–And they are forgotten, never to be brought up again.
–We are redeemed.
–We are chosen.
–We are justified.
–We have peace with God.
–We have hope in Christ.
–We have a living hope by His resurrection.
–We have a refuge for bad times.
–We have an anchor for the storms.
–We have a great high priest.
–He wrote our name in the Book of Life.
–We are called children of God.
–He adopted us into the family of God.
–We are born again.
–He called us into His service.
–He gifted us for the service.
–He sent us into the world.
–He gave us a ministry.
–He accompanies us.
–He empowers us.
–He fills us.
–He gives us brothers and sisters as encouragers and colaborers.
–We have fellowship.
–We have the written Word of God.
–We have an advocate with the Father.
–We know the way of righteousness.
–He gives us joy.
–He gives us great promises about our future.
–We have an inheritance in Heaven.
–He will never leave us nor forsake us.
–There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
–There is no more death.
–To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
–We are secure in Christ.
–Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–He will be with us to the end of the world.
–We are saved forever.
–We are saved for nothing.
–We are saved for service.
–He has made us the Light of the world.
–He has made us the Salt of the earth.
–He has made us living letters to the world.
–He has made us the fragrance of Christ to the world.
–We are the templeo of God.
–We are ambassadors for Christ, urging people to be reconciled to God.
And that’s just for starters.
No wonder the writer of Hebrews called this “a great salvation,” and asked “How shall you escape if you neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)
Think of the fullness of this salvation. There are no missing parts. This is complete, everything the man or woman of faith will be needing to live for God in this life and live with Him forever afterward.
THE GOSPEL OF GREAT JOY. This is the result of what God did in Christ.
The reception of that good news brought joy, but not to everyone.
Some, like King Herod, heard the news and grew fearful of losing his puny earth reign. So, he lashed out in a pitiful attempt to destroy the Savior.
Some, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, heard the news and grew protective of their tiny bit of turf, their little spheres of influence. They had climbed the ecclesiastical ladder of their day and were not of a mind to allow God in Heaven to interfere with their moment in the sun.
The original slanderer–the serpent–tried to make Eve believe that God did not want the best for His creation. “Has He really said that?” And then, “He is holding out on you. He knows that in the day you eat of the forbidden fruit, you will become a God.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
Ever since, slanderers have been on the job, snidely insinuating that God wants only to take away from us whatever makes us happy, gives us joy, and enriches our lives. Not so.
He is the Great Giver of Joy.
It’s His very nature.
In Thy presence there is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
In our Lord’s final message to the disciples before going to the cross, Jesus taught them about the joy that would be theirs:
—These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full, (John 15:11)
—Your heart will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22)
—Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)
Throughout the rest of the Scriptures, we are continuously instructed and reminded that joy is to be the standard attitude of God’s born-agains. We are not to base our joy on outer circumstances and not even on spiritual harvests (see Luke 10:20), but on the unchanging reality of God’s salvation.
Joy is one of the chief “fruits of the Spirit,” according to Galatians 5:22-23. When the Holy Spirit is in charge of our lives, He produces fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.
Rejoice always. (I Thessalonians 5:16)
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
I love the image of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail where they have been thrown as a result of their preaching the good news of Jesus. They were beaten and placed into a prison and locked into stocks. But with their wounds still untreated and no clear evidence as to what God was up to, these two men of Christ broke into song in the middle of the night. But at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)
If you can still sing at such a time, God has done a great work in your life. With such faith from such men giving such a testimony, He will do great things.
And as a result, others will come to know the great joy. It just keeps spreading.
We have such good news of great joy. Let’s go tell others. Not everyone knows.