Great News!

When God sends a message of “Joy to the World,” it’s not just theoretical.

The arrival of Advent and Christmas can sometimes present a dilemma. On the one hand, we are eager to commemorate the earth-shattering reality of Jesus’ birth into the world. Most of us welcome opportunities to celebrate with family, to exhibit generosity, and to (hopefully) take a few days off and retreat from a frenzied pace of life. Many of us are eager to consider the wonder and significance of God’s Son becoming human, identifying with our sorrows, and offering Himself to heal our deepest wounds.

On the other hand, sometimes we’re also perplexed: It’s hard to know how to embrace the fullness of this story if the circumstances of our life exist in stark contrast to the happiness this season invites. How do we celebrate with abandon when we are aware (every bit as much on March 25th and August 25th as on December 25th) that this world can be a fearful and lonely place? What about the grief intertwined with so much of the current human predicament? And how do we reckon with the greed and excess that often grows even more exaggerated during this time of year? Some folks suggest we retreat from gift-giving altogether, the whole affair irreparably sullied by runaway consumerism. Perhaps it’s better to just tone down all the merrymaking.

Lavacourt under Snow, c.1878-81 (oil on canvas), by Claude Monet
 

Read Luke 2:1-14

Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?

Yet from the very beginning, Christmas has been fundamentally about joy—rollicking and unbridled joy. On that first night of Christmas revelry, a radiant angel appeared to a group of shepherds while they were minding their own business, camped under the stars and guarding their flocks. “An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” The shepherds dropped to their knees. “They were terribly frightened,” Luke says (Luke 2:8-9). Of course they were.

Seeing the shepherds quivering in their sandals, the celestial messenger spoke to them: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). The angel wanted to deliver two vital pieces of information to those terrified men: First, don’t be afraid; and second, God’s good news floods the world with fabulous joy. These ideas run counter to the messages that often bombard us: 1) Be afraid; and 2) If there is any true joy to be found in this world (which is highly unlikely), we’ll have to find it for ourselves.

From the very beginning, Christmas has been fundamentally about joy—rollicking and unbridled joy.

Of course, the angel was able to speak with such clarity because he possessed the conviction of one who knew the stunning, disruptive, generative force that always accompanies God’s arrival. And in Bethlehem on that very day, he announced, was born the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Whenever God arrives, things change—and joy breaks loose. Chaos or uncertainty may seem to have the upper hand, but God is with us (Immanuel), and He tells a different story. (See Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23.) Sadness, disappointment, or anxiety may dog us for a time, but because the Lord is with us, joy wins the day. So whenever we sing “Joy to the World,” we should belt it out with real vigor, because it is good news to the world that something amazing has happened.

Reflect

Write your thoughts in a journal.

• Read the story of the shepherds a second time (Luke 2:8-14). Though most of us are far removed from personal experience of their line of work, consider the rigors of that lifestyle. What’s more, the men who tended flocks in first-century Judea were held in low esteem. What factors do you imagine may have threatened their joy? 

• The literal meaning of the word gospel is “good news.” With this in mind, read Mark 16:15. Why do we see the gospel as good news in this context? Reflect on the connection between Mark’s wording (“Go into all the world”) and the angel’s declaration in Luke 2:10 that the good news he brings will ignite joy “which will be for all the people.” What does it say about God that His heart includes everyone in joy’s embrace?

Sadness, disappointment, or anxiety may dog us for a time, but because the Lord is with us, joy wins the day.

• Read Luke 4:43. What do you see about Jesus’ heart and intentions here? How does this theme reach all the way back to the shepherds and the angel? How does it reach forward to us?

Respond

In which areas of life are you most desperate for God’s good news? Do you have a relationship that requires healing? A situation of injustice in need of His intervention? Does apiece of your story seem too shattered for the Lord to mend? What in the accounts of Jesus’ birth and early years (Matt. 1:18-25, Matt. 2:1-23; Luke 2:1-40) speaks hope into your situation?

• What is your response to the general idea of joy? Do you feel yourself drawn to joy or suspicious of it? Is it difficult for you to embrace joy? Why or why not?

• Remembering the angel’s words to the shepherds, how do you think fear and joy are related? In what way do these emotions work against each other? Which one are you listening to more these days? To what do you attribute this?

Revisit

• Think of one or two people you would describe as joyful. Reflect on how they live their life and the way they face challenging circumstances. If possible, have conversations with them and ask what fosters joy in their heart.

• Find the lyrics to the Christmas carol “Joy to the World.” Read them slowly twice. Pause on any phrase or idea that catches your imagination. Each week until Christmas, take one line and meditate on it.

• Look for one place (or experience) of joy this week. Give yourself fully to it.

 

Related Topics:  Joy

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What happens to my notes

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,

5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

23 BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, GOD WITH US."

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

15 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

43 But He said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose."

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, GOD WITH US."

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

2 Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 They said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6 AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

18 A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE."

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,

20 Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead."

21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee,

23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: He shall be called a Nazarene."

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,

5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds 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."

16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"),

24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS."

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,

28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel."

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--

35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.

40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

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