By J.D. Davis
Senior Pastor, Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, OH
Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-20
There is deep inside every person a universal need to find inner peace. It is a peace that provides direction and satisfies the desire for our lives to have purpose. For centuries philosophers have wrestled with the deeper meaning of life, and how the soul finds peace. It is one of the great quests of life.
The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once wrote, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”
According to our text, an angel interrupts the quiet night watch of shepherds to proclaim a message of “good news and great joy.” Then a multitude of angels join the one to sing about “peace on earth.” The “good news of great joy” is a message that humanity can find inner peace right now, while still on earth.
The Greek word for “good news” is euangelizo. It is the word from which we get evangelism. When you or I share the gospel we are sharing the good news of Jesus. However, the angels teach us that this “good news” also comes with “great joy.”
Again, the Greek here indicates that “great joy” can mean “surprisingly large and loud happiness.” However, this joy is not based on a feeling or a situation. It is based on a permanent change. In other words, the good news will change your outlook on life from fear, which the shepherds had, to joy, which only Jesus can give.
The angel clearly states that this message of “good news of great joy” is “for all people.” The shepherds were considered on the lower rungs of society among the Jews, but his message is for them and they embrace it.
Notice that when the angels left “the shepherds said to one another.” The Greek language indicates that there was a lot of talk. In fact they may have been talking over one another. But then one of the shepherds said, “let’s go.”
That comment may seem small and insignificant, but the shepherds moved from talking to doing. They could have talked about the message for hours and analyzed it numerous ways, but that would not have led them to finding Jesus. It took a challenge to move from “saying” to “going.” I am afraid that much of what we do as believers is rooted in talking and much more should be based on doing.
Notice what happens when they go. They “hurried off,” which means they were obedient to the message. The talk had ended and the action had begun. Then they “found.” There can be no discovering without searching. In fact the language here indicates that there was effort in their search. That means they did not quit, but kept at it till they found what they were looking for. We call that perseverance. Obedience and perseverance mark a life that has heard the message and been changed by the message.
The message of Christmas is not for a moment, or a season, or just to meet our immediate needs. The message of Christmas is the message that changes us and the direction of our life. Through obedience and perseverance to the message to seek Christ we find the inner peace we crave. Obedience and perseverance changes us and we discover great joy.
Notice how our passage concludes. The shepherds return to their fields, “glorifying and praising God” for the message (what they heard) and for how the message had changed them (what they had seen). They may have returned to the same field, but they were different shepherds when they got back.
May we not just talk about the Christmas message this year, but may it challenge us with obedience and perseverance.
May the message change us and give us great joy.
— Davis is senior pastor of Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, Ohio.