“… I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 8-9 NIV, emphasis added)
My youngest son loves to play with our toy nativity. It is a “Little People Nativity” that has lasted through his older sister and brother and now has been discovered by him. Three different sets of little hands have held the little baby Jesus, made the Angel fly, and positioned the Shepherds in their rightful place. For the third time, a little voice asked me a familiar question. “Momma, where is baby Jesus now?” Such a simple question in the mind of a four year old, but its answer is the key that unlocks the great joy of Christmas Day.
On a starry night in a field outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were watching over a herd of lambs. But these weren’t just any lambs; they were the lambs that would be offered for sacrifice at the feast of Passover a few months away. It is during that feast that the Jews would offer unblemished lambs as a sacrifice in remembrance of God’s deliverance of His people from slavery. Passover was a festival worshipping God for their freedom and His provision, and these Shepherds were responsible for guarding the lambs that would be offered as a sacrifice of worship. How beautiful that God sent an Angel to this very group to announce the arrival of the Lamb of God who would serve as the ultimate Passover sacrifice, ensuring freedom for those who believed.
“But the Angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The words of the Angel not only proclaimed the arrival of a child called Christ, they heralded the beginning of the Gospel. The “good news” that the Savior Israel had waited for, the one who would bring an end to their centuries of turmoil through His peace (Micah 5: 5) and who would pour out a Spirit of much needed grace on the people of Israel (Zech. 12: 10), this Savior was born that very day.
For many children, like my son, the birth of Jesus is exciting because we make it exciting. We celebrate, give presents, and read stories about a donkey, an Inn, and a special baby. In his mind, baby Jesus is still a little baby in a manger in a stable. But herein lays the reason for celebrating continually the birth of Christ: not only is he no longer a baby in a manger…. He is ALIVE. This is the great joy.
Baby Jesus grew up, perfect and flawless in obedience to the will of God. He taught about love and salvation for those who believe in Him. He healed the hurting, gave sight to the blind, and loved the unloved. Then, just as the lambs being tended by the Shepherd in the field outside Bethlehem, Jesus poured out his blood as a living sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. He was mocked, spit upon, stabbed with thorns, and rejected by the very ones He was born to save. Finally, He suffered separation from His Father for three hours as He held the sin of mankind on His shredded body before taking His final breath.
If this were the result of the Savior’s birth, would we still celebrate it as being good news? Would we have a birthday party every year for a baby who was born to save humanity but died at it’s hands instead? No, it’s not often we celebrate the birthdays of those who have died. But, we cannot forget that the Angel proclaimed good news of great joy.
Jesus was not defeated by death on the Cross; instead He defeated death through the Cross. Our Savior is called so because He died for our sin and rose again in victory. He saved us from eternal separation from God by giving us eternal life with God. He is alive and well, sitting on His throne in Heaven as He listens to every birthday song, watches every gift opened, and revels in our worship as we celebrate the great joy of victory and freedom because of His birth… freedom and victory for all people.
Please don’t miss the opportunity to relish the great joy of this season in the melancholy of the hustle and bustle. Let us never reduce this time of year to stories of the past or leave Jesus as the baby in the manger. He lived a life of obedience and love, gave Himself as a sacrifice of grace in death, and is now alive and well, the resurrected King waiting for us in eternity. JOY TO THE WORLD!!!