Well, it is THAT time of the year again. Obviously I am referring to Christmastime.
How do I know that it is going to be Christmas soon? Because the shops are already smothered in tinsel, the endlessly repeated ‘Christmas muzak’ is playing in the malls, and my letterbox is becoming inundated with Christmas-themed junk mail.
What have all of the above got to do with Christmas, you ask. Nothing, actually. The Fat Man in the Red Suit says, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”, the retailer says, “Buy! Buy! Buy!”, and the brewer says, “Drink! Drink! Drink!” – but, nothing is heard about the real reason for the season.
In contrast, over 2000 years ago, God sent his angel to tell some low-class shepherds watching their flock of sheep in a paddock near Bethlehem about the first Christmas. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Saviour, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” (Luke 2:10,11)
It puzzles modern readers as to why the angel’s first words encouraged them to not be afraid. This is because we don’t realise that the Shepherds had a reputation for dishonesty and promiscuity, like lots of people today. Therefore, the angel reassured them that it had come with ‘good news of great joy’ rather than fearful words of judgment.
Notice also how the good news is ‘for all the people.’ Too often we get the impression that the good news about Jesus is for a few ‘frozen chosen’ who meet ‘religiously’ every Sunday, and who keep the Ten Commandments. The fact that the angel’s announcement came to the shepherds is significant, and then the reminder that it is to be good news for all the people of planet earth is something we need to recapture this Christmas. Are you a human? Then the good news about Jesus coming into the world to save his people from their sins is for you too.
One would have expected the shepherds to head off to the nearest palace or finest mansion to visit the Messiah of God. Instead, he is wrapped warmly and laid to sleep in a manger. Such a humble entrance for the King of the Universe. However, this very humility gives us hope. It reminds us that this is a message not just for the religious and important, but for ordinary unbelieving people like us. It is a message for you.