They’re familiar words. But they’re brilliant. They’re the words that were uttered in the fields outside Bethlehem on the first Christmas Eve. It wasn’t ‘is there nothing better on the other channel?’ Or ‘where did you put the wrapping paper?’ Or ‘Pants! I’ve got nothing for your Mum, what times does Sainsbury’s close?’ They were,
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Luke 2:10-12
The angels announced that the long awaited, long promised saviour king had finally arrived. But that’s not all they said. As they reflected on the momentous birth of Jesus, they made three qualifying statements that are sometimes missed.
First, Jesus is good news not bad news. But do we think like that? Aren’t we at least a little bit tempted to think that following Jesus isn’t all good? It’s sometimes hard. But what better news can you think of than discovering that God has sent a saviour to rescue you from an eternity of his justified condemnation and righteous punishment for your sins. Make no mistake. It’s what you deserve. As do I. Because we’re wicked and God is holy. But such is His love for us that He sent His Son to save us. Are you really going to tell me that you’ve thought of something better to tell me than that!
Secondly, Jesus is a cause for celebration not a reason to be miserable. But do we think like that? Aren’t we at least just a little bit tempted to think that Jesus is nothing special; that he’s nothing to get excited about? But what could possible happen to us that could come near to being so amazing as being saved? Getting married? Being promoted? Buying your first house? Having a baby? Are you really going to try to convince me that any of those things will make me happier than knowing Jesus as my saviour!
Thirdly, Jesus is for everyone not just a few. But do we think like that? Aren’t we at least a little bit tempted to think that Jesus is just for the good people? The religious people? The people who don’t stuff up quite as much as we do? But he came for all types. All nations. All classes. All sorts. And that includes you and me. He didn’t come for those who have no need of a saviour. Because first, people like that don’t need to be saved. And more importantly, secondly, there are none! Are you really going to try to persuade me that you’re the one person that Jesus didn’t come for!
I’m not at all sure that the vast majority of people in our neck of the woods realise just how good the good news is. And that’s our task as a church. It’s a task that’s made somewhat easier at Christmas because people are willing, keen even, to come to events where we try to communicate that. So we’ll keep praying. And we’ll keep inviting. And whilst we do, we’ll keep remembering that Jesus’s rescue is good news producing great joy for all people.