Good News For You

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 2:10-11

And the angel said to them, “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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:10,11 RSV

Here’s the old story, always new. Listen again.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Do you know what comes to me as I ponder those familiar words? I think of people in great fear who hear a message of great joy, and how that becomes the greatest of good news for you and me.

GREAT FEAR

Think first about these people so much afraid. They were first-century shepherds watching their flocks in a field near Bethlehem, every-day working people. Theirs was the night shift. A group of them had gathered their flocks together, and took turns as watchmen through the dark hours, on the lookout against thieves and predators. They were people like many of us, with a rich heritage but not very religious. Most of them were probably “inactive members,” as we say, in the community of faith. They were just doing their job on a night that seemed like any other night. Suddenly, they saw a shining presence hovering by them and a light of almost blinding splendor. They sensed that the Almighty was near and they trembled with fear.

Listen as the various translators describe what they were feeling. “They were sore afraid.” “They were filled with fear.” “They were badly frightened.” “They were terrified.”

When the angel of the Lord spoke to them in an audible voice, this fear of theirs was the starting point, “Fear not,” came the word, “be not afraid.” Simple words to say, but not so easy to heed when we’re frightened almost out of our wits. We need powerful considerations to balance that kind of fear, to get ourselves calmed down again.

I don’t know any people who have been startled by a vision of angels in the night, but I do know many who are greatly afraid, who, as Luke puts it, “fear with a great fear.” I know a father and mother who fear deeply that their young son’s mysterious abdominal pain may be an ominous sign. I know someone who’s just gotten in touch with how deeply afraid he is of dying. I know people who live every day with the chilling fear that they may lose their jobs. I know some who have been relatively well off who now recoil with fear at the prospect of financial ruin. There are people out there almost paralyzed with fear that their marriage may be coming apart, that their children are becoming alienated from them. Some are afraid to go to the doctor for fear of what a routine examination may reveal. Some I know are so scarred by their experiences with the demonic that they can feel fresh terror at the approach of Halloween.

Not all of us are ready to acknowledge our fears. We manage for the most part to cover up those anxieties fairly well. But surely there are none among us invulnerable to some great fear. It doesn’t take very much to stir up in us again some hidden dread.

Some believe that the fear of death is behind these other fears. But deeper than that may be the haunting fear of what lies beyond death. Maybe the worst dread is that life at the last will be found meaningless, all a colossal accident or a grim joke, that my having lived and died will make no final difference to anyone. Or maybe for people who have pushed away all thought of God throughout their lives the worst of all fears is that what religious people have been saying all along might turn out to be true. Some are deeply afraid of losing God at the last and some of finding Him!

GREAT JOY

It’s to a world like that and to people like us that the message came, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy.” This is a kind of a double positive. “I bring you good news” – that’s already something cheering and wonderful to hear. And the good news is about “a great joy.” Apparently this will be enough to vanquish anyone’s fear. The shepherds and all the rest of us may have been expecting the worst, but instead came the best, the greatest announcement that ever broke on the world, the most hopeful report imaginable. Here it is: a Savior has been born.

“A Savior?” you say. That’s what something in all of us has been longing for, no matter what we fear most. Someone to rescue us from our danger or distress, someone to make right everything that threatens to go wrong with us, a champion to enter the battle on our side, someone coming in the nick of time to turn the tables on our foes. A Savior, that ought to scatter our fears. He won’t simply alter our circumstances. He’ll do something about us. To save means to heal, to restore, to give new life, to make us what we’re meant to be.

The Savior, we’re told, will be “Christ.” That term had special meaning for Israel, God’s ancient people. Christ is the Greek word for Messiah, the Anointed One. The Messiah was the object of Israel’s hope. Child birth had long been precious to young women in Israel for many reasons common to us all. One was unique. One mother, somewhere, some time, of the seed of Abraham, would give birth to God’s Anointed One. In that coming One, all the longings of Israel would be gathered up.

Anointing was the pouring of oil on someone as a sign of God’s touch upon that life. This priest, or this prophet, or this king was being set apart for a mission in God’s purpose. The oil was the sign that the Spirit of God was enduing him or her for the task. But all those anointings in Israel were partial, preliminary, provisional. They all pointed to a peerless prophet, to a great high priest, to a king whose reign would never end. The Anointed One was the promised seed of Abraham, Israel’s Messiah, hope of the world. So the Savior whose birth was being announced was the very One for whom Israel and the world had long been waiting.

But that wasn’t all. He would be Christ the “Lord.” This was saying more. I say it advisedly, infinitely more. The Gentile world knew about saviors (with a small s). That title was sometimes given to a military hero or a famous emperor. And in Israel, the Messiah, great as He was, had been looked for as an outstanding man, a first among equals. But this is an announcement of a different order. The One who was coming as Israel’s Messiah, the One who was coming as Savior of the world, is the Lord. Not simply the greatest among men, the most gifted, the most godly, not simply a messenger from God, an angel or an archangel. In this birth the Lord Himself would come, the Master of the universe, the One who spoke into being all worlds, the Almighty, the all-knowing, the all-holy, and all-gracious. God was coming. He was making His unimaginable entry into human life. That’s what the glad tidings of great joy were all about: as the Hebrews said it, “Immanuel,” God with us.

We search in vain for any fitting analogies. Shall we think of an angel becoming an earth worm? Not even close. Shall an Einstein reduce himself by some leap of being to live as an amoeba? That’s a glimpse perhaps, a hint at the outskirts of God’s ways, but little more. Nothing in our experience can suggest to us the gulf that was crossed when the Creator took human flesh, when God became man. Are you looking for good news? Never forget this: ours is a visited planet, unique among all the shining spheres. God has come here in space and time. He has chosen to clothe Himself with a genuinely human life. He, the Lord of all, came to be the Messiah, the Savior, and His name is Jesus.

FOR YOU

What I want you to think about especially today is how this greatest of all wonders affects you. Think of those shepherds as representative people. That’s what they were. We aren’t given their names or any details about them. They were people, everyday people like us. They heard the announcement that this marvelous news was for all. Surely if the Lord was coming, it wasn’t to be something private and limited. All the tribes and tongues, all the peoples and nations were in view when He arrived.

But notice how it was said to this little group of individuals, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy . . . for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Yes, the news is meant for all the world and all the ages. But it’s also a personal word for them, on which they are to act, in which they are to rejoice.

When the message came on that starry night, “Fear not,” was there something in it for you? Have any of the fears we were thinking about earlier troubled you? Fears of disease and death? Fears of dying relationships and heartbreaking estrangements? Fears of meaninglessness or of what may meet you on Judgment Day? Fear of sickness and pain, of losing something or someone precious? Of being finally alone? Or fear of something else, perhaps too dreadful even to name? If you have fears like that, as we say, “join the club.” You’re one of us. You’re part of this searching, struggling, vulnerable, anxious band of human beings. And heaven’s “fear not” is for you as much as for anyone.

And this baby to be born, the One who sets all the joy bells ringing, He’s born not only for people long ago or for special folk or religious types. He’s born, oh believe it, for you! He came to be your Savior, to free you from the worst things that threaten your life, that rob you of your joy. He’ll heal the deepest plague of your heart. He’ll make you a new person and give you abundant life. He’s the promised One, the Messiah, who is pledged to you. All the promises God ever made find their yes in Him, and it’s a yes for you. When the Lord came, the Lord of glory, to share our humanness, to bear our burdens, to die in our place, He came for you as surely as if you had been the only person in the world. That’s how individualizing the good news is. Good news for you.

I remember hearing about an old Scotsman in the midst of a worship service, waiting to receive the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper. At the other end of the pew from him was a young girl, looking distraught and desperate. As the elements were passed by her, she looked longingly for a moment but did not partake. Then she put her face in her hands and wept. The old man looked on. In a moment, he had slipped over beside her to offer again the emblems of Christ’s body and blood. “Take it, lassie,” he said. “It’s for sinners.”

Will you remember that? Never imagine that any deed you’ve done is too vile, any unbelief of yours too insulting to God, any crime too heinous to keep you from the Lord’s gift of love. The Savior is born for you. Messiah has appeared for you. The Lord has come all the way from the glory to find you. Trust Him today, friends, and rejoice with a great joy! The Lord has come for you.

Prayer: Father, only You can make this real to us. Only You can take the great general truth of the gospel and make it gloriously good news for each heart. And we pray that everyone sharing in this broadcast may know that the birth of Jesus, the great joy of His coming into the world, is for them. Oh, make it so. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.