I read a story about a family that lived during the depression. Knowing his son loved the circus, the father saved up some money for him to go. The day arrived and the circus paraded into town. The son ran out of the house and sat on the sidewalk watching the animals and performers go by. After it was over, he ran home and told his dad how exciting it was. The dad, surprised at his son’s response, told him that was just the parade and that the circus was not until that evening. Getting distracted by the parade, the son almost missed the real show. One of the things about Christmas today is we too are in danger of missing the real meaning of Christmas!
I think for many today, Christmas is missed, or rather it is lost among all the lights, decorations, gifts, food and gatherings. What the angels sang about in Luke 2:10-11 is lost. They said to the shepherds in the field, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.
Of all the themes and gifts we experience and receive this time of the year, the great joy of Christmas comes through receiving God’s gift of the Savior, Christ the Lord.
But the angels declaration was for “all the people.” How is that possible for those who do not know Christ? Even non-Christians can experience some of the blessings of the celebration through wonderful gatherings, spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts and sharing in good food. These good things are in essence products of what began as a celebration of the Incarnation.
But for the Christian, there is a deeper meaning. It is something that is also referred to as a fruit of the Spirit… and that is joy. Joy is something that is not reserved for the Christmas season. In fact, it is something we should be experiencing all year long because it comes with having a relationship with God. That is why the angels described the event, the coming of the Savior, as “great joy.”
The first thing we discover with the good news about the Savior is it good news for sinners. We can start with the shepherds who first heard this wonderful message. When you dig a little deeper, you learn that shepherds were not held in very high regard in their day. Their testimony was considered unreliable. Ceremonially, they were considered unclean, having to clean up after sheep which are very dirty animals and deal with dead carcasses.
Now imagine if you were with them in the fields tending their flocks. It is probably a quiet night, unlike any other dark night in Israel. Suddenly, a bright light breaks into their lives and these majestic beings appear before them. They were scared. What was happening? Until the angels appeared, they were oblivious, living out their lives like the countless nights before.
In many ways, this is a picture of the human race. People today live in the dark and are unaware of the dangers ahead. They are oblivious that one day, they will have to stand before God and give an account for their lives. (Hebrews 9:27). The Gospel is the Good News. It is a beacon of hope that turns people from their lives of destruction to a life of hope and joy in Christ. But like the shepherds, it scares people. It scares them because it means there is someone greater than us in the universe. It scares us because one day will have to give an account of our lives and we might fall short.
So how does the world respond? It denies it!
This leads to the second thing we discover. The good news about the Savior is true. I think one of the most used phrases in the world over the last few years is, “Fake News.” Every time a politician says something, people investigate it in order to disprove it and declare it “fake news.” For millennia, people have been trying to disprove Jesus. Each Christmas and Easter, magazines try to “find” the real Jesus. They look at the historical and archeological evidence, trying to put the pieces together and see if Jesus was whom the Christians claim Him to be.
One of the things I have learned is that good news is only good if it is true. If I told you that you won a $1 000 000, would you go out and spend it before you find out it was true? Of course not! The same is true with the Christian faith. It is not blind faith, but one that is based on facts.
So what evidence do we find about Jesus? Luke, a physician, and author of the gospel of Luke and Acts, did research regarding the things he wrote. He interviewed witnesses and gathered testimonies. He looked at prophecies dating back hundreds of years and when it was all evaluated, he declared Jesus was God’s Son in the flesh. You can find records of Him in historical documents and even other religions acknowledge that Jesus existed. He is not a legend. And because He is real, this demands a response from those whom He came to.
St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene as a reminder of the facts about Jesus. Although we live in a very subjective culture, when it comes to Jesus, it is not just “your belief,” rather the evidence declares it is fact. This all leads to joy because it is good news and it is true news.
Lastly, we take from the text in Luke 2 that the news about the Savior brings joy because it is universal… it is for all people. Many religions today are often focused on and associated with a specific culture or people group. This is where Christianity is different. The angel said that this news was not just for the shepherds but for “all the people” (2:10). First, it came to the Jews, and later in Romans 10, to all. You can experience heaven because of this Good News.
Romans 1:16 says the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. You can put your name here: “there has been born for a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The Christmas season is full of good things: lights, presents, music, food, friends, and family. But in all this “goodness,” it is easy to miss out on what is at the heart of Christmas and that is the message of the Good News – God sent His Son into the world so that we might be forgiven, and reconciled to Him.
This is the truth of Christmas. Not the gifts, not the food, not the music, rather the Person of Jesus. So as we meet with family and friends, my hope and prayer are we would take time to meet with the focus of this season – Jesus Christ, God’s Son. In Him, you will find all the things we need for life and eternity.