CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS

GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY

In Luke 2:10 the angel of the Lord said to the shepherds 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."

In the Greek text 'bring ... good news' is the word:  'euangelizomai'' - I  announce good news. We normally associate evangelism with the message of salvation through the death of Christ, and with challenging people to repent, but here evangelism - the announcement of good news - focuses on the joy intrinsic in the birth of Christ.

Why is the birth of this child 'good news'? And why is it the foundation of deep and intense joy? Because this day, this birth-day of Christ, is the day anticipated from eternity,  the day that ushers in the 'last days', the day that initiates the fulfillment of the purposes of God and the final self-revelation of God:

'But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law ...' [Galatians 4:4]

'For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ' [2Corinthians 1:20]

'... the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints' [Colossians 1:26]

'In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ...' [Hebrews 1:1-2]

All through the Old Testament this day had been anticipated, this last era in which prophetic shadows and symbols would be replaced by the reality to which they had long been pointing. All through the Old Testament the promise of a Savior is repeated. All through the Old Testament a final revelation of God's glory is expected. All through the Old Testament era the questions pulsated 'When will all of this happen?' and 'What does all of this mean?' [Read 1Peter 1:10-12 and Luke 10:23,24].

And now, that long awaited day has come. 'This day' the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord, is born, and he rescues us, not only from our sin and judgment, but also from the deep spiritual darkness in which we were bound. No longer do we need to grope around among all the gods promoted in the belief systems of the world, wondering which, if any, is the true God. Here, on this day, God himself comes to us, dispersing for ever our ignorance: 

'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.' [John 1:14] 

 'No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known' [John 1:18] 

'Light has come into the world' [John 3:19]

'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' [John 8:12]

The shepherds, not even knowing, as we do, that this Christ would die as a substitutionary atonement for sin, were filled with exuberant joy [Luke 2:20]. Their joy was not focused in salvation from sin and judgment, but solely on the fact of his arrival.

And here we come to the deep meaning of the gospel: that salvation, while totally impossible without the death of Christ, is not granted on the basis of understanding  that death, but consists in knowing God by knowing Christ, in seeing God by seeing Christ, in receiving God by receiving Christ: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' [John 17:3; read also John 12:44-46; John 8:34].

To know God is to have eternal life. Such knowledge of God is possible only through knowing Christ, this Christ whose birth the angel announced as 'good news of great joy'.  

Peter put is this way: ' ... you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy' [1Peter 1:8]. 

© Rosemary Bardsley 2007,  2015