Focal Passage: Luke 2:1-15
We would add to our collection from wherever we traveled, or if we found a unique set. Some would be to look at, others to use to tell the story of Jesus to others, while still others were for our children and now grandchildren to play with.
One year, as my wife and daughter were unpacking a set, to the horror of my young daughter, baby Jesus could not be found. They searched through the box and the packing paper, looked under seats and cushions, and thought of any place that baby Jesus might be. Our daughter was deflated. She exclaimed, “We can’t have Christmas without baby Jesus!” The good news was that baby Jesus was packed in another box!
The angels first announced to the world the “good news” that baby Jesus would always be part of Christmas. The juxtaposition of their double announcement of “Don’t be afraid” and “good news of great joy” has always been unique, thought-provoking, and demanding of our attention. Throughout Scripture, whenever God breaks into our world, His announcement would always be accompanied by “Fear not!” meaning to those who hear, “Don’t be afraid of the message of God.”
Even with the announcement of excitement expressed in the double emphasis of joy with both “good” and “great” invoked, it is tempered with a call not to fear or worry. The shepherds were to receive this announcement without fear and with great excitement. When the angelic messenger was joined by the angelic choir and their song of “Glory to God,” the double announcement was magnified. The notion was made complete when the shepherds returned to their fields after a visit with baby Jesus, “glorifying and praising God.”
The absence of fear reveals a trust and faith sorely lacking in our world today. It is one thing to hear “Don’t be afraid” from one who has faced troubles and challenges in our world and knows how to navigate them from one who says, “Don’t worry, I have never been here before, but I will figure it out.” The shepherds, overwhelmed by God through the angelic host, would not be derailed in their purpose to visit baby Jesus because of their personal fear. They would place their trust in the one making the announcement. Only in their trust of God, unclouded by any fear, were the shepherds able to receive and respond to the announcement.
Trust led to excitement and joy. Walk through any hospital to the nursery and watch the numbers of people, regardless of why they are in the hospital, stop, stare, and marvel at the joy of a new birth. Luke didn’t want us merely to marvel at this birth. He gave the announcement the double emphasis of “good, great joy!” to ensure that the shepherds — and we — knew this was not any ordinary birth. For with this birth, “a Savior has been born.” This birth would come with both wonder and celebration.
Make sure that in retelling this “announcement of all announcements,” it is achieved with trust in the one making the announcement and the overwhelming celebration of His goodness that a Savior has been born. B&R — Lloyd is pastor of First Baptist Church, Newport.