Keeping the joy alive
What do you do when you hear news of a new baby being born? Do we simply return to what you were doing before, as if nothing happened? Or do we stop what we are doing and take a moment to appreciate this new life? Often, we become so excited that we want to spread the word and share the news with others? This is especially true if this new child is part of our family, or we know the family personally. Perhaps we may be so excited that we can’t wait to meet this new child or see photos of the new bub.
In many cases in our culture, once a healthy baby is born, the father is the first person to spread the good news. Often, he has been there with the mother at the birth of the child. Then, while the mother gets some rest, dad starts telling the world about the exciting news. He might go and tell them in person. He might go and make a phone call. These days dad might send a text message or post it on social media. He often starts with his family and friends, and they spread the news further afield to their friends. The family and close friends then often make eager plans to meet the child. Many are so eager to see the new bub face to face, that they can’t wait. They might suddenly take time off work to travel to see this new child and their family.
It’s amazing what lengths people will go to share the good news and excitement. I remember one father relating his experience. It was about 15 years ago that his daughter was born. Mobile phones were still fairly new, and he didn’t have all the phone numbers with him. So his daughter was born, he went home to make some phone calls. The problem is, when he got home, the landline wasn’t working. By this time it was 10pm … but he couldn’t wait until morning. So he picked up his mobile phone and his contact list, ready to dial some numbers. But the phone signal in that town wasn’t very unreliable at that time. So there he was, on top of the cubby house, in the cold and dark, ringing the family with the good news.
There are some parallels here with the birth of Jesus. Once Jesus is born, his Father is so excited that he wants to tell the world. He starts by sharing the good news and excitement with the angels. The angels then spread the news and excitement further afield. And in that field were some shepherds, sitting outside in the dark, keeping watch over their flocks.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11, nlt)
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15, nlt)
The angels spread the good news and the excitement. The shepherds responded by taking time off work to go visit the infant saviour and his family.
The shepherds then shared the good news and excitement with others.
the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished (Luke 2:17-18, nlt)
And so, the good news and excitement was spread throughout the land. It continued to be told until even we have heard of the birth of Jesus, our saviour and Lord.
But this isn’t just an ordinary baby. Christmas is only worth celebrating because of Easter. What’s special about Jesus is that he saves us! Not just from our sins. Jesus also saves us from the burden of guilt, shame and regrets. We can leave all these at the cross. And we can walk away with peace, freedom and new life. In Jesus we can have a fresh start. We can live differently because we have new life in Jesus.
But news often only seems to be discussed when it is new. When some other big news comes along, people quickly forget the old news. We stop talking about the transformation we have discovered, like a fad that has run its course. The old news is out and we start raving about the latest piece of news.
The same can happen with the freedom and life we have in Jesus. We can forget the difference he makes. It can be taken for granted.
The challenge for us then becomes, how do we keep the good news of Jesus – born for you and me – fresh in our hearts and minds? How do we remain excited by this news that we may have heard time and time again.
Our Gospel reading suggests two things that can keep this news fresh for us. Firstly is Mary’s response.
19 but Mary kept [/treasured] all these things in her heart and thought about them often. (Luke 2:19, nlt)
Over time our enthusiasm and excitement can wane. As humans we can quickly forget. We need continual reminders of the blessings Jesus Christ brings us. We need to hear this good news often. That’s why the church offers services every week. That’s why there are daily devotions and bible reading plans. That’s why bible study groups often meet weekly or fortnightly. So that, like Mary, we can be reminded of the good news and ponder them in our hearts and minds. Over time we learn to treasure this, and even long for the routine to hear again of God’s love for you and me in Jesus Christ.
The second response in today’s reading is that of the shepherds,
20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:20, nlt)
The shepherds went back to their regular lives glorifying and praising God. You see we’re not meant to just praise and glorify God on Sunday mornings. We are called to praise him all week in the way we live. Many refer to church services or singing hymns as ‘worship’ or ‘praise’. While that is true, it can distract us from the fact that we are also called to praise, worship and glorify God with the rest of our life too.
The shepherds glorified and praised God for all they had seen and heard. Today we see the Christian community gathered. We see bread and wine. We receive Jesus in Holy Communion and through his word. We hear his words of love and forgiveness for you and me throughout the service. We can return to our lives glorify and praising God for all that we have seen and heard.
The birth of Jesus is Good News for you, me, and the rest of the world. Let’s treasure this good news in our hearts and minds. But let us not keep it to ourselves. Let us encourage each other and the people we see each day with reminders of this good news, so that we don’t forget how important and special this is. And let us glorify and praise God in our lives – with all that we are and all that we do and say. Amen.
Pastor Darren Kupke.