01 Dec Vicars’ Blog – Dec 2018 – Good News of Great Joy
Good News of Great Joy
As we look towards the Christmas season, what is good news for you? Sadly, many people have a lack of joy in their lives. And yet, Christmas is more than a season, it is the annual reminder that the birth of Christ brought in a whole new opportunity and an everlasting hope for all people. The angels couldn’t help but burst into songs of praise “Glory to God in the Highest!” when they announced the great news that the long-awaited saviour had been born, offering peace and joy for all people.
A band of shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem, had gone to work that night just like any other, working together to give company and protection, guarding their flocks of sheep. Hoping for an uneventful night, when God broke into their daily routine. There are a few times I can recall, when, going about my daily business, I have suddenly been very aware of God’s presence reassuring me, comforting me or giving the guidance that I sorely needed at the time. John Ortberg says, “God is closer that you think”. God is actually with us all the time, but we are not always aware of it.
However, the scale of the angels’ visit is unprecedented in the Bible, and it’s not surprising the shepherds were terrified when suddenly a multitude of angels took a few moments away from worshipping at the throne of God to announce: “Good news of great joy for all people.” Their message is of earth-changing significance: “A child has been born who is Saviour and Lord, who brings peace to God’s people.” These ordinary people had heard about a remarkable thing and they lost no time in running to Bethlehem to see for themselves the baby Saviour the angels had told them about. And they worshipped…. “Glory to God in the highest!”
Part of the power of the birth narrative is the sparse detail we are given. Tradition has filled in many of the blanks, but we should feel free to enter afresh into the story and supply some of the side characters. You may well have questions. How did the shepherds find Mary and Joseph? How many shepherds were there? What was the response of the other travellers in the overcrowded house to these nocturnal visitors? Might we linger a little to feel the terror of the shepherds, the joy of the angels, the wonder of the villagers? And as we do this might we recapture some of the wonder of that very first Christmas and find ourselves hurrying, like the shepherds, to share the good news that we have not only heard about but seen for ourselves.
2000 years later, news that God has come to earth as a human being to save us is as significant for us as it was for them. This is news good enough to share with those around us, who may not know about that joy that changes lives now and gives hope for ever. This December let us go and worship the child who is Saviour and Lord. Not to Bethlehem, but to church, to worship and pray with other ordinary people whose lives have also been touched by the wonder of Christ, God’s son.
Glory to God and joy to you this Christmas!