I love Christmas! I really love almost everything about this special time of the year. I love the lights, the trees, the decorations, the good cheer, the songs, the gifts—I even like the goofy Christmas sweaters.
Possibly the only thing I don’t like about Christmas is how busy this time of year can become for pastors and church leaders. There’s so much for us to do, and so many extra meetings and gatherings to attend. I have to confess that there have been a few years I really struggled with the Christmas spirit because I was too busy doing all the Christmas stuff. It’s ironic how easily I can lose the true meaning of something so miraculous, so beautiful and so inspiring.
God’s Christmas celebration begins with four separate birth announcements, delivered by angels through life-changing circumstances to Zechariah and Elizabeth; Mary and Joseph; some random, unnamed shepherds; and some magi-type wise guys. Each announcement was designed by God and was life-altering to the ones who received the Good News.
The setting for each announcement was different, and the individuals involved had almost nothing in common. They weren’t really waiting for God to tell them anything; in fact, most people felt that God had been pretty silent for hundreds of years. But God is never silent, though at times He is quietly working, preparing seasons of redemption for His created loved ones.
There is one announcement that really stands out for me: I love the shepherds and their sheep. Maybe they have a special appeal because they were just hanging out doing their job, minding their own business. I sometimes wonder if God decided to do something that would completely blow their minds just to get their attention. What is more startling than an angel appearing in a field to announce the birth of Jesus?
“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master” (Luke 2:10-11, MSG).
I doubt the shepherds considered the implication of an announcement that was “meant for everybody, worldwide,” and I’m certain they never thought that I would be one of “everybody”—but God did. God was thinking of me when He sent that angel into that field near Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.
He knew that I would celebrate the birth of Jesus, and He knew that, one day, I would come to understand that the great and joyful event we now call Christmas would hold more meaning for me than all the lights and trees and decorations and songs and ugly sweaters ever sold at Target or Walmart or anywhere else. Jesus’ birth has become a yearly reminder that God has provided all the gifts I will ever need, and He alone provides a peace and joy unparalleled by anything in creation.
I don’t want to forget the second part of birth announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2: 13-14, NKJV). If one angel is mind-blowing, then “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” is mega-mind-blowing. “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (v.14).
This Christmas, may each of you hear a bunch of angels announcing the great and joyful news that God has done everything you need through the birth of Jesus. Maybe it will come to you in a quiet whisper, or while you’re on the job, as it did for old Zechariah. Maybe you will hear heavenly music and a band of angels. I believe that, for those with ears to hear, they are still singing. Merry Christmas!
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