In Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in Luke chapter 2 we have a stunning account of an angel appearing to some shepherds who were “keeping watch over their flock by night.” We’ve all heard this account many times. Even if you’ve never picked up a Bible, you’ve been exposed to this part of the narrative. We’ve seen it drawn on Christmas cards. We’ve seen it acted out in our children’s Christmas pageants while they were dressed as shepherds complete with robes and bath towels over their heads to simulate the authentic look of middle eastern sheepherders. And, we’ve even seen the passage recited verbatim from memory by Linus in the 1965 classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
However, just like Charlie Brown, we look around both our world and even our own hearts and wonder if the meaning of Christmas has still gotten lost. I don’t mean the standard complaint about commercialism. We all agree that Christmas isn’t about shopping, presents, or the enormous amount of money we’ll spend on useless junk that will soon be lost, broken outgrown, or forgotten. Rather, I’m talking about a misunderstanding even among those of us who know that Christmas is about Jesus. Sure, most of us living in Bible belt Christianity are quick to say that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or “Keep Christ in Christmas”. We have that message on bumper stickers, sweatshirts and even on our Facebook pages.
So, if Christmas is about Jesus, and it definitely is, then the real question should be: What’s Jesus all about? I mean what’s the point of getting our unbelieving neighbors and all the department store clerks to say “Merry Christmas” if they don’t understand who Christ is or why He came?
For the answer to that, we should look at what the Angels told those shepherds more than 2000 years ago:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
The angels told the shepherds that their announcement was “good news of great joy”. And, that’s the key phrase: “good news.”
Good news is very different from good advice. These days much of the church world proclaims their message thusly:
Behold, our church brings you good advice of great helpfulness: For this week we’re beginning our 5 part series on how to manage your money
Or, 6 steps to finding a satisfying career.
Or, 4 keys to have happy, well-behaved kids.
What’s wrong with this sort of message? I mean, who doesn’t want a satisfying career, obedient children and finances that are in order?
The problem is that those are things anyone can learn from Dr. Phil or in the self-help section of any bookstore. They don’t require Jesus or Bethlehem or Calvary. In fact, our communities are full of many people who don’t trust in Christ but have plenty of success, good kids and their financial house in order.
Those things are not “Good news of Great Joy.” Rather, they are good advice of great helpfulness.
The good news is that God “become flesh and dwelt among us.”
Why? Let’s look at the second part of their announcement to the shepherds:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
What we need this Christmas is not a list of helpful tips to make our lives run smoother. We need a Savior. The truth is that no matter how much we appear to have it together, we still sin and don’t measure up to God’s righteous standard. But, the Good News of Great Joy is that God has sent someone to live a perfect, sinless life. And, then to die the death that we deserve. By trusting in Him and His perfect life, not our messed up life, we have Hope.
That, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.