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Good Tidings Of Great Joy

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December 22, 1974

Luke 2:10,12

Most reporters rarely get to report any good news. Their time is spent covering robberies, rapes, murders, wars,
political speeches, and the like. When criticized for always reporting bad news, they point out they do not create
the news, they just report it. Most of the news of our day depresses and disturbs.

Reporters in the ancient day had the same problem. Good news has always been scarce. Another problem is that
often good news is over looked. The fact that it is good news may not be clearly evident at the moment     so many
miss it entirely.

If God had not sent an angel from heaven to tell about it, the whole world would have missed the best news of the
ages. The lowly shepherds guarding their flock in the fields not far from Bethlehem were the first to hear. This in
itself was surprising. -In looking for someone to share the glad tidings with, the angel overlooked all of the
im¬portant names of that day.

The angel declared his mission to be that of bringing good tidings of great joy. He meant it was a message that
would result in joy for those who heard. For those shep¬herds it did just that. The record of the event closes with
the shepherds filled with joy, praising and glorifying God.

Since we are desperately in need of some news to bring a little joy to our depressed world, let us look again at the
message of the angel. What was so good about it? What was there in it that could make a man praise God with joy?

The first word of Christmas was "fear not". The first word of the angel that announced the coming event to Mary
was "fear not". (Luke 1:30) The first word of the angel sent to inform Joseph was "fear not". (Matt. 1:20) And now
the first word of Christmas to the shepherds is "fear not"!

Ancient man lived with a fear of the divine and spiritual. Many of the revelations of the divine presence had ended
in death and destruction, so man feared any approach of God. He had lingering in his mind a vision of Mount Sinai
with the thunder, the fire, the trumpets, and the clouds. He knew that he had not been able to keep the words
brought down from the mountain by Moses. He knew that he deserved, and fully expected the judgment of God.

Those humble shepherds were jarred from their half sleep by the appearance of the angel, and then there was the
shining glory all about them in the night. They were frigh¬tened within an inch of life.

The news brought by the angel can bring great joy because it announces the end of fear. If man will accept the
good news of Christmas, he can banish his fears. Christmas does not reveal a God come to destroy, but to save. It
does not reveal an angry God to flee from, but rather a God of love come to earth to seek and to save that which is
lost. It does not declare a God who cannot be approached, but one who approaches man to save. A real
understanding of what happened that Christmas morning will put an end to fear.

The good tidings is about a deed of God so loving that all man can do is respond in love. Such love will cast out
fear. Consider your fears for a moment. Most of them look rather silly if the God of this universe, the God we have
met to worship, is really like what the angel came to declare. If the God who runs this universe is the God of
Christmas, fear is dead.

The world into which Christmas dawned felt its need of a Savior. Everyone who showed any promise of getting the
world out of its political and spiritual problems was given the title. A hopeful world had given the title to the Caesar
and to many smaller political leaders     only to be brutally disappointed.

The Christmas angel declared that at last a Savior had been born. This title sug¬gested One who could deliver,
could rescue, could save, and could protect. The baby born to Mary that night was the One sent by God to be this
Savior. He had not come to save men from their political problems , but from their most personal problem    their
sin. Joseph was instructed to call His name Jesus for He was the One to save His people from their sins.

Is not guilt one of the big reasons our world is so sad? Billy Graham said that a leading psychiatrist of England told
him that if the average patient in the mental hospitals could be convinced that he was forgiven, he could go home.
Guilt is the horrible thing that has put him there. Only eternity will ever reveal how much of the illness and misery of
our world is rooted in a sense of guilt growing out of personal sin.

One of the unhappiest of men was Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish theologian, who squandered his youth in
loose living and lost his brief manhood in the self torture of a gloomy religion. He blamed his father for his gloom.
His father lived with a sense of guilt over an experience as a young man. In his boyhood when things were going
especially hard, the father had lifted his face toward heaven and cursed God. He could never forget this. He lived
with a depressing sense of guilt. Later in life after the death of his wife, he had become involved sexually with his
housekeeper. He married her, but five months later she gave birth to his child. He could never forgive himself for
this. An abiding sickness of soul grew out of these experiences from which the father never escaped. He
bequeathed this to his son and eternally affected his life.

Christmas is good news for the guilty. You can have joy again. You can be rid of your sin and guilt   a Savior is
born. Tradition has it that these shepherds kept the sheep that were to be offered in sacrifice at the temple. But all
of the sheep they could raise could never take away sin. That night God gave the world One who could take away
sin as the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world. It is still so. There is only One that can save. The Son of God and
son of Mary born this Christmas

"Lord" is a title that belonged to God, but man often took it for himself or gave it to another of his fellows. In
desperate hope he often gave the title to his political leaders. The way he gave the title to others is a witness to the
abiding need that man has for someone to be his lord. God created man this way. He was created to be the lord
over creation, but to have God as the Lord over his life. When this is not accomplished, man's life ceases to have
the proper meaning.

Much of the misery of our age is a direct result of life having no meaning, man having no purpose for which to live.
More and more I have begun asking people, "What does your life mean? Why are you here?" It is surprising how
many have no answers to this very basic question.

The word of the angel to the shepherds that Christmas morning is the answer to this problem. God has given us
One to be the Lord in our lives. The Savior is identified as "Christ the Lord". "Christ" means the anointed One
which associates Him with the promises of the Old Testament. He is the One expected to fulfill the promises of God.
"Lord'' identifies Him with the God of the Old Testament and suggests the position He should take in the world. He
has come to be the Lord of men, to be Lord over all of life.

The youth of today are especially bothered by life having no meaning. This is the prime reason so many of them
have turned to drugs, and sex. They are seeking a clue to what life really means. The meaning of life is not found
in a "trip", or an "affair", but in surrender to Jesus Christ as the Lord of life.

This good tidings must be received with faith if there is to be the great joy. To the credit of this group of poor
shepherds, let it be recorded that they believed. They were sent looking for a little baby, just born, wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Surely if a Savior and Lord has come, He would be either in the temple at
Jeru¬salem or in the temple of Herod   but no He is to be found in the little village of Beth¬lehem in a cow stall as a
little baby. But these men helieved. They went. They found Him. They worshipped Him. And their hearts were set to
singing with full joy.

We are not sent to a cow stall. He has been to a Cross since that morning. He has been in the tomb since that
morning. He is now at the right hand of God in the heavens as the victor over death and the Lord over life.  He is
still the Savior from sin, the answer to fear, and the Lord of life – this is the only Good News I know.  It is still Good
News for all people.  Even shepherds, and secretaries, and carpenters, and housewives, and students – even you
can realize Good News in this word from the angels.

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