Saturday, December 19, 2015

Good News of Great Joy!

Read Luke 1-2

What a year—2015 is almost in the books.  It is time for Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

Those words seem to offend some folks these days.  I have surely offended people all year long with my language.

God loves you.  Love one another.
God is love.
Jesus is Lord!
Come home.  Ye who are weary come home, as well as those who are lazy or just disconnected.  Come home!

I tried to push the boundaries of offending some for the sake of the gospel.  Remember, the yellow side goes out on the DISCONNECT NOTICE.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever would believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

This is the epitome of love.  This is love poured out full strength from God’s heart.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

We are told as we get near the end of the age that the love of many will grow cold.  People will gather around them only those who will speak things that they want to hear.

I am wondering if we have not arrived at this point in time.  It seems that we cannot have a simple conversation without someone being offended.  If you want to really offend them, bring up God and Jesus.

OMG!  OMG!  OMG!  I think I have offended someone.
Are they OK?
What do you mean?
Did they grow a third arm or do they have a sucking chest wound because you offended them?
Well no.  They’re just offended.
Then get on with your life!

We don’t need to go around looking for reasons to offend people, but on the other hand we should not be such worry warts about what we say offending somebody—especially if it happens to be good news.

We love the liberty of living in a nation that values free speech and yet we get bent all out of sorts when something that somebody says offends us in some way.  I think if you are easily offended, then you might want to get a visa to a country where there is no free speech for your own personal safety.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas?

We have good news of great joy.  We don’t need to be keeping that to ourselves.  And we don’t need a three page legal brief to precede our Merry Christmas that we post online.  We need to be happy in who we are.

We are people who belong to Christ.  He is our Master.  He is our Lord.  We are his.  If you want, you can call us Christians.  We belong to the Christ.  We follow the Christ.

Oh by the way, we are not required by law or regulation or some verse in Leviticus to beat up on people who say, Happy Holidays.   They may not know it, but they are just saying the modern day equivalent of Happy Holy Days.

Besides, it lets us include the often overlooked Boxing Day, which does celebrate Christmas.  This is now on the 26th of December, but once upon a time was just the first weekday after Christmas Day in which a box of sundries was given to those who served us during the year—the mailman, delivery boys, servants, and the like.  What a cool holiday, or holy day, or just a day to show a little love to those who serve.

I wonder if anyone in Canada gets offended if you say, Happy Boxing Day?

Two thousand years ago events were set in motion that caused men who lived under the rule of the Roman Empire to return to their hometown to be registered.  It was a census if you will.  Caesar Augustus was going to make sure he got all the tax that he thought he was due.  Good ole Caesar formerly known as Octavian Augustus was acting like a one man IRS.

Nobody was going to fly under the radar.  Everyone was to be registered.  So Joseph and very pregnant Mary headed off to the City of David.  We know it as Bethlehem.

When you think of this story, we all probably wonder the same thing.  What about those people who were born at sea?  Where did they go to register?  It surely wouldn’t have been very many.  Today, we would also have to account for those who have been born in airborne transit.
If I lived in the Roman world 2000 years ago and my wife had a baby at sea, we would have named that child Taxus Exemptus.

We would not be talking about many people, and it doesn’t have any bearing on the story, but inquiring minds want to know.

You know the story.  There was no room at the inn.  So the young couple found themselves in a stable, maybe it was a cave with some protection.  It was surely the next best thing that the innkeeper could offer them.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus Christ was born.

The story jumps to some shepherds who were tending their flocks.  It was night.  Yes, they had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas.  The truth be known, they probably had to work on Boxing Day as well.

The angel appears and they are afraid.  The angel tells them not to be afraid for they have come with good news.

The angel describes a baby wrapped up to keep warm and then a host of angels comes and sings.

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
This was surely not your regular night out with the flock.

Some of the shepherds went to see for themselves.  Things were just as described.  Mary treasured all of what had transpired in her heart.

The shepherds departed singing praises to God.
And that’s the Christmas story, short and sweet; except, I glossed over one part too quickly.

Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

The angel brought good news of great joy.
Good news and great joy—are these still a part of our Christmas? 

Do the words, For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, bring us joy—even great joy?

This much much more important than whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

Do the words, For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, bring us joy—even great joy?

Does Christmas bring us great joy?

Or does it bring us stress and frustration and credit card debt?

The time set aside that we call Advent is for us to get ready for Christmas.  Getting ready is not so much snagging the best Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal possible.  It is about anticipating the joy that was sent to us.  It is about preparing our hearts for this wonderful celebration.

It is about God revealing his divine heart in a babe born in a manger.

It is about what Billy Graham described as the Greatest Story Ever Told.  Does this story bring us joy?

Do we understand the words that we have been saying all month long?

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

God is making everything alright, better than alright.  God is pouring our his love in this baby born in Bethlehem and our response should be joy.

We sing Joy to the World:  

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Do we who know Jesus as our Lord and as our King have joy?  Do you remember the second verse in this song?  It talks about the entire creation repeating the sounding joy.

Repeat the sounding Joy.  Repeat the sounding Joy.  Repeat, Repeat the sounding joy!

Does Christmas bring us joy or do we just try to get through it?

More than anything we say, the joy that exudes from us will say Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days, even more than our careful lexicon selections.

The angel said, I bring good news of great joy.
It’s still good news and it should bring us great joy.

If the world or your circumstances or the crisis of the day is robbing you of your joy well then Bah Humbug on the joy robbing.

Sometimes picking up your cross and following Jesus seems pretty tough, but celebrating Christmas should be a time of joy.

The angels delivered wonderful news.  The shepherds knew to rejoice and sing praises to God.

We know it too.  So let us go into the world celebrating Christmas with great joy for we have received the good news.

We have received the good news of great joy!


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