Good News of Great Joy!

(Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-20)

 

12-24-05

 

The angel said to the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  (Luke 2.10-11)

 

Good news of great joy. 

I still remember so many details of that day.  Although it was more than twenty years ago, it seems as if it was only yesterday. 

It was early evening on a Friday – just after work.  And I went up to a small shopping center in north Dallas after work to visit my favorite stained glass store, because I needed a couple of things for a project that I was working on. 

I was poking around in the shelves, looking at the glass and the new tools and stuff.  When the owner of the store came up to me and said, “Aren’t you Paul Wehner?”

I said yes, why do you ask? 

He said, “Well, there is a phone call up at the front counter for you.” 

Well, lots of things go through your mind at a moment like that.  I immediately tried to figure out who knew where I was.  And of course, what could be so important that it couldn’t wait.  These were the dark ages - before cell phones - so we weren’t used to being constantly available back then like we are now.

My brain was working overtime trying to sort out the possibilities as I headed for the front of the store. 

So with a strange mixture of dread and excitement I answered the phone.  And it was my wife Sherry.  She was calling to tell me that the adoption agency had just called her to tell us that we could pick up our new baby son on Monday!

Three days warning – talk about a short pregnancy.  And an early delivery!

Good news of great joy. 

Good news of great joy. 

The Shepherd’s phone call from God came in the form of the visit from the angel who also brought news of the birth of a baby.  We read that at first, the shepherds were terrified by the angel’s appearance. 

But the angel calms them down and tells them of the wondrous news.  A child has been born that will bring peace and hope to the world.  A child has been born that will be the Savior of all humankind. 

And then the angel’s pronouncement is verified by the appearance of this whole heavenly host of angels that light up the sky and declare God’s glory in the world.

And then it is over.  And the shepherds are literally left in the dark.  We are not told of the ensuing conversations that took place after the angels left.  But I bet that it wasn’t unanimous that they just pick up and head for Bethlehem .  I imagined that they had a lively discussion about what they had just seen and what to do about it.  I am sure they had more questions than answers.  Why did the angels choose them?  I mean, how could the birth of someone else’s child be good news of great joy to them?  And how could they just leave their sheep to go and see? 

What to do with this news that they are given?

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Well we know what they did.  Otherwise we would not be reading about them.  And while, they could not have known exactly what had happened with the angels.  Evidently they did understand that it was significant and that it was of God.  So they went forth in faith to find the child that the angels told them to look for.

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Sherry and I consider our children to be miracles because of the way they showed up in our lives.  But miracles or not, life changes when you have children.  And I found that all the cliché’s about being a parent are true.  For one, I really did believe that Robert and Annie were the most beautiful babies I had ever seen in my life. 

And it seemed like I instantly had this new sense of responsibility and urgency about being a good provider for my family.  But most time worn cliché, and also the biggest truth about children . . .   is that your life is never the same again - after children become part of it. 

You are changed.  Not richer in a material sense.  But richer at heart.  Because life now has new meaning.  And guess who is definitely not the center of it anymore.  That’s right - DAD.

Because that little baby that can do nothing for itself.  That little baby that just lies there and looks back at you.  That little baby is now the center of your life.  And the center of your hopes and dreams for the future.

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So it is even more so with this birth that we celebrate tonight.  We are not suddenly richer in material things by the birth of Christ.  But we are richer at heart by his presence among us. 

Because we realize that it is not all about us.  The baby in the manager is now the center of attention for us and for the world.  And if we can allow that child to become the center of our hopes and dreams, then our lives are made different. 

The good news of great joy is that Jesus came to bring hope to a broken world.  Jesus came to remind us that our place with God is not determined by our jobs (the angels came to the lowly shepherds).  It is not determined by the size of our house (Jesus was born in a manager) and it has nothing to do with our status in society (who could be more insignificant than Mary and Joseph?

Jesus came to bring hope to a broken world.

 

The thing that I have been most struck by as I think of back on 2005, the year that is ending, is the tragedies.  It is how many people are still dislocated from their homes and families.  How many people still suffer from the effects of the hurricanes, and how hopeless it all seems that their lives will ever return to some sort of normalcy.  The tragedies that we have suffered in this part of the country this year are unprecedented.  Literally, hundreds of thousands of lives have been affected.

But I think that an even greater factor – and maybe the biggest reason that we all still feel overwhelmed, is that hurricanes are not something that we can fix or prevent.  We can’t apply some good ole American ingenuity to it and know that we will be significantly safer in the years to come.  So we are left with a much more hopeless feeling.

 

So it is so very important that we hear the good news of great joy tonight.  That we understand the hope that comes from this gift from God.  Who could have guessed that a single birth could so change the world?

 

So tonight, let’s stop – let’s put our thoughts aside of tomorrow’s big meal and stop thinking about all of those presents under a tree.  And instead think about what it means to have God born among us.

Because everything else in our lives is small and insignificant compared to the incredible outpouring of God’s grace that is made evident by this simple story about the birth of a child.  How could any of us not be moved – not be made different (if even in a small way) in light of the love that God is proclaiming – for us?

Because this story is not so much about a baby being born, as it is a story of a God who so loves his people as to take on our humanity - so that we would come to know and love him all the more. 

And the story is for you right now, right here, at whatever place you are in your life.  Because this story offers you the hope that comes from a God who literally wants to part of your life and to bring you the peace and joy that can only come from God. 

Our job is to be still and to hear it.  To actually hear it.  And then tell it to others.  Because great joy is not great joy unless it is shared with the world.

"Be not afraid; for 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.”