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The Promise of Joy

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard
2018 23 Dec

Young Afghan Shepherd, Kandahar province, Afghanistan

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

“Christmas is a delightful disruption of the way things normally go.” 
That’s how William Willimon describes Christmas.

I like that phrase “delightful disruption” because it catches the spirit of Luke 2. One moment you’re tending the sheep in the middle of the night, the next you’re being scared out of your wits by an angelic choir. I don’t know how delightful that is, but it’s definitely a disruption. 

Doug Goins paints a vivid picture of how shepherds were viewed in that day:

The Judean shepherds were the lowest of the low socially-common men, a despised class with a bad reputation. Shepherds were known as thieves because they were nomadic, and as they moved their sheep around the country, sometimes they got confused about what was "mine" and what was "thine." They were all tarred with the same brush-untrustworthy, dishonest. They were not allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law. Their work made it impossible for them to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws and temple rituals, so they were considered religiously unclean and unacceptable. It's pretty amazing to think this heavenly invasion came to such social outcasts! (From the sermon “Journeys of Joy”)

So when the angel says, “To you is born,” he’s really saying, “Christ came for lowly shepherds.”  But what about those theologians in Jerusalem who knew but didn’t care? He came for them too, but they missed it. 

When Christ came, his birth was first announced to the outcasts of society. They were the first ones to hear the good news of Christmas. There is a great lesson in this for all of us. Our Lord came for the forgotten people of the earth, and most of the time they are the ones who receive him with the greatest joy. Rich people often have no time for Christ, but the poor welcome him as an honored guest. 

The angel said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” “Unto you.” He came for you. This is where Christmas becomes intensely personal. It’s not enough to say you believe Christ came. Millions of people say that and are still lost in their sins. It’s not enough to say Christ came for someone else. 

You can never be saved until you say, “Christ came for me. He died for me. He rose from the dead for me.” 

He came for you. Do you believe that? 

In two days Christmas will be here. Families will gather around the tree to open their presents. Already children are counting the hours until that glad moment arrives. 

When you receive your gifts this Christmas, what will you do? Will you not open them? What use is a gift that is never opened?

Two thousand years ago God sent a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to you. But you will never experience Christmas joy until you personally receive God’s gift—the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.

Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ child can be born. Amen.

Musical bonus: When God wanted to save the world, he started with a baby in a manger. First Call reminds us of this truth as they sing One Small Child.

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