14. God of Encouragement (2)

Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 14. God of Encouragement (2)

Lk 2:10,11  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

In the previous meditation I suggested that Mary and Joseph needed some encouragement and the coming of the shepherds was just that, but we have first to see what happened to them. We got to the point where the lone angel appeared in all his glory and scared the shepherds witless.  But he encourages them: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  (v.10).

How we take some of these familiar things for granted!  Remember, I concluded the previous thoughts asking about the sort of God we have. It is a very real question for many Christians have a ‘hard’ God (see Jesus’ parable Lk 19:21), a God who seeks to chastise, tell off and generally beat up on His children. No, the angel comes bringing GOOD news that will bring GREAT joy and it will be for ALL the people. Do you see the strength in those words? Do they make you feel uncomfortable or do you have childlike faith that leaps with joy over them?

The trouble is we know what comes next and somehow the fact of a baby seems to diminish the power of the words I have just emphasized: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v.11,12)  i.e. you will know my words are true when we actually find him down there in a manger, which is not where you would normally expect to find a baby.

Now don’t get me wrong because without doubt our hearts lift when we read the account, but the truth is that I often find there is a chasm between the words of Scripture and a person’s everyday experience. Note the last of the words I emphasized – ALL the people. There are no exceptions so if you have low self-esteem and write yourself off, I have to tell you that God’s plans include you and they are GOOD News that is designed to bring you GREAT joy. Did we have that great joy once but it got covered over by the requirements of pharisaical religion, or even just the hard knocks of life? Have we never known that great joy? If you answer affirmatively, don’t feel bad but just realise that God has a lot more for you to come.

See what follows: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (v.13,14) Now I don’t know whether this was singing or just an awesome declaration but one way or another this was incredible. These shepherds would never forget this. The sky was full of angelic beings and the message was clear: God is almighty and His plans and purposes are for peace for whoever will come to Him and receive it because on them His favour will rest, His intent to bless them and bless them again.

Now the end of this part of the story is rather good: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (v.20) They found the baby (v.16) went out and told others about him (v.17) but now they return to their hillside, as believers, but not just any old believers, believers who glorify and praise God. They cannot hold in what had happened it was so wonderful. Yes, I suspect Mary and Joseph were encouraged by all this but then so were the shepherds; they were no longer outcasts but those who knew God had come to them – and they mattered. We matter to God! Worship Him today.

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