Making The Message Known
Before we can make the message known, we must first know the message. What then, is the message of Christmas? Let me give you the message of Christmas quite literally from the mouth of an angel, "today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord"(Lk.2:11).
This is no ordinary birth. This is the birth of the Christ child. This is the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God. So what's the occasion? Is God becoming man a part of some heaven to earth public relations strategy? No, it is not. We learn from the angel's message that God becoming man is a rescue mission. The angel tells us that "there has been born for you a Saviour".
In the dark of the night, an angel appears to a group of shepherds keeping watch over their flock, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy"(v.9, 10).
Notice that before the shepherds could rejoice, they needed to shake off their fear. The presence of this heavenly angel terrified the shepherds. I see an analogy here for our own life. Christmas reminds us that we have a Saviour. Christmas reminds us why we should "Rejoice in the Lord always"(Phil. 4:4). But before we can do this, we must shake off our fear. We must have our anxiety quenched.
Some of you here tonight are worried about facing certain members of your family. Some of you here tonight are worried about your health. Some of you are worried about the health of someone you love. Some of you are worried about your finances. No doubt, these are serious things and we should be concerned about them. At the same time, Christmas should remind us that in the midst of chaos, in the midst of our chaos, God has everything under control.
Of all the things we value, the destiny and health of our soul should top the list. Christmas reminds us that God has made provision for the salvation of our souls. Tonight is not a night for worry. Tonight is a night to consider the state of your soul. If you regard yourself as a desperate sinner, then the birth of Christ should be a cause of supreme joy in your life.
If you do not regard yourself as such, then maybe you should be worrying about all these things. For the joy promised in our Bible text is promised to those who recognize their need for a Saviour.
I often hear people dismiss Christianity by saying that it is a crutch for the weak. To that I say, 'Yes. Jesus is my crutch. In a spiritual sense, my legs are broken, and I cannot walk without Christ as my support'.
So the message of Christmas then, is that my crutch just arrived in the mail. Jesus, our Saviour, has been born. The angel, speaking to the shepherds, called for joy, and I call for it from you tonight.
The message the angel delivered that night was indeed good news. So glad a message was it that it could not be spoken by a solitary voice. After the one angel had made the message known to the shepherds, a band of them appeared to sing their anthem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased"(v.14).
And how did the shepherds respond? Luke records that they "began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger"(v.15, 16).
The excitement of the shepherds is impossible to miss. The way I picture many of your young children dashing to the Christmas tree for presents tomorrow morning is how I picture these shepherds, full of joyful anticipation, running to Bethlehem to see the Christ Child.
I think I can speak for us all when I say that human beings desire to be joyful. It has been my observation that, at Christmas, there exists 2 types of joy. The first type of joy is manufactured joy. Manufactured joy is dependent on what we do and requires that everything be 'just right'. We decorate and arrange our homes a certain way. We visit certain people and welcome certain people into our homes. We prepare special meals and the list goes on and on. The shortcoming of manufactured joy is that, inevitably, not everything turns out perfectly. The guests arrive late, your brother greets you with a harsh word, the present you bought for your niece doesn't fit, and the turkey you cooked is too dry.
If all we have is manufactured joy, then there are no guarantees that you will have a joyful Christmas.
The second type of joy that I have identified is God-produced joy. Looking at our Bible text this evening, I see two things that go hand-in-hand with God-produced joy: Worship and witness.
The angels, in their joy, sang "Glory to God in the highest". The shepherds, in their joy, "went back (to their fields) glorifying and praising God"(v.20). For the angels and the shepherds, joy and worship went hand-in-hand.
The second aspect of God-produced joy is witness. You will notice in this text that joy in the birth of Christ belongs to those who tell it to others.
The angels had a message to tell to the shepherds and this brought them joy, and caused them to sing. And when the shepherds found their way to Mary and Joseph, we read that when they saw the baby Jesus, "they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child"(v.17).
True joy, God-produced joy, cannot be silenced. The angels and the shepherds were compelled by their joy to make the message known. They wanted the world to know that "today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord."
I, too, want to remind you of this great truth. I, too, desire that you might share in this joy--a joy produced by God, a joy that cannot be extinguished by unfavourable circumstances. Nothing can change the fact that Jesus the Saviour was born--and He was born to set you free from your sins.
As Charles Wesley's hymn reminds us, "Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn King'". Amen.