This is a rough transcript of a talk I gave last Sunday on Luke 2:10-11. I only work off of notes and not a full script but this is a rough approximation of what I said on the day. This was rushed off a bit so sorry for any mistakes. Merry Christmas!
In our passage the shepherds receive good news of great joy and so I wonder, what would bring you great joy? When I thought about this, the thing that came to my mind was the birth of my little girl Melody. It was just such an amazing thing that I wanted everyone to know, I wanted to share the news. “My little girl has arrived and she’s amazing!” Both Becca and I were completely full of joy at her birth.
And even today she is still one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Everyday she seems to be learning new things and picking up words and phrases. Recently I’ve been trying to teach her quotes from Lord of the Rings as it just amuses me to see her running around quoting Gandalf! I love the way that she copies me too. In the summer I would go and sit on the step in the garden and put my drink down beside me and she would come up and plonk herself down on the step,put her drink next to mine and then look at me as if to say, “I’m doing what you’re doing.” And I love the way she runs up to me shouting “Daddy” when I get home and come through the doors. That’s what brings me great joy and I’m sure many of us here can identify with that feeling even if the circumstances are a bit different.
So in our passage the shepherds are out in the field at night, watching their flock and quite possibly washing their socks too so I’m led to believe, and suddenly angel appears with a heavenly announcement:
‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people’
So what is this good news of great joy?
‘to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’
This good news of great joy is the announcement of the birth of a child. But not just any child. Look at who the angel says he is. This baby is Saviour and Messiah! He’s their rescuer, the anointed one, God’s chosen King who will deliver his people and redeem them. Now it’s hard to say what the shepherds would have understood by this. Maybe they thought the Messiah would come and liberate them from Roman occupation and restore the nation of Israel. But whatever they thought, this was the person they’d been waiting for. God’s promises were being fulfilled right here, in their lifetime. Just imagine the joy they would have felt. It would have been completely overwhelming. And to think, here it is being announced to a bunch of stinky shepherds, the lowest of the low, right at the bottom of the social ladder. Imagine the great hope this would bring for them and indeed, the joy.
And it should be good news of great joy for us too? Why? Well because even with Melody and all the joy that she brings me, I know that something isn’t right, that there’s still something wrong. And so this is good news of great joy to me because I know that I need a saviour and I need a Messiah, someone to redeem me. Because I know the depths of my heart, the deep uncontrollable drives inside me, the corruption inside. That even when I’m being “good” there is something not right in me. I might be able to control my behaviour but there’s still something deep down in my being, a selfishness, even a darkness that I naturally gravitate too.
And I don’t just see this in me, it’s in the whole world as I look around me. Every time I pick up a newspaper or turn on the news or click on the BBC website all I see is oppression, marginalisation, pain, suffering, mourning and loss. You know, in the UK this year, 500,000 families have lost someone, 250,000 elderly will be at Christmas time and 80,000 children will be homeless. And you know what? We could go and mourn with these families, spend the day with the elderly, find housing for all of those children but even then the darkness wouldn’t be gone, because there is something deeper in our very being. And we’ve all felt it, we’ve all felt the fall and we feel it every day. I need redeeming and so does the whole world, so how could this news, of a saviour and a Messiah, fail to bring us great joy?
But how can one person make a difference? Well there’s something else about this child’s identity in these verses. We’re told:
“to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
The most amazing thing in this announcement is that the saving Messiah is God! The child lying in the manger is not just some man chosen for the task, he is the Lord of heaven, God in the flesh, God with us, the visible image of the invisible God. In him the fulness of God was pleased to dwell and he was in his very nature God. And here, God draws alongside us, he comes close to the broken, people like you and me, the sick, the black hearted and the corrupt. God comes as a man takes, our burden on himself and pays for it all on the cross. How can this not bring us great joy?
So no matter what the darkness is for us this Christmas, whether it’s sick family, the death of a loved one, the family tensions of the Christmas period or even just that very darkness deep within us, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light, a light who has come to save and redeem us.
I’d like to finish with an extract from a poem which I think sums this up well.
Our summer’s gone, if you’ve been around,
you’ve felt the fall: life’s run aground.
We’ve gone up in the world, seen summer die.
So what’s our hope? The dark defy?
Stoke the hearth? Retreat indoors?
Rug up warm with you and yours?
The shadow reaches even here,
But THIS is the place for Christmas cheer.
It’s dark, in the bible, when Christmas is spoken.
Always a bolt from the blue for the broken.
It’s the valley of shadow, the land of the dead,
It’s, “No place in the inn,” so He stoops to the shed.
He’s born to the shameful, bends to the weak,
becomes the lowly: the God who can’t speak!
And yet, what a Word, this Saviour who comes,
Our dismal, abysmal depths He plumbs.
Through crib and then cross, to compass our life.
To carry and conquer. Our Brother in strife.
He became what we are: our failures He shouldered,
To bring us to His life: forever enfolded.
He took on our frailty, He took on all-comers,
To turn all our winters to glorious summers.
It’s Christmas now… whatever the weather,
Some soak in the sun, some huddle together.
But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.