I think, no matter who you are, there has been misinformation on both sides of about everything the past year or two. Sometimes we see something on social media, Facebook, or whatever, and it grabs our attention and seems pretty possible. Then there’s other stuff like this…
There is no coast of Austria. Austria is a land-locked country. And there is no Whale Team 6, at least that I know of. This story, of course, is just made up to be funny.
But, there has been a lot of bad news and a lot of false news this year. But, thankfully, I have something much different for you.
I have some incredibly good news and it is not fake!
First, I want to show you that this is not false news. That’s really important. Then we’ll get into the really good news. Of course, if the news were fake then it couldn’t be good.
Real News (Luke 1:1-4; 2:1-3)
Luke, the one who wrote one of the accounts of Jesus’ life, had a fourfold approach to his task. First, we see he did an investigation. He interviewed eyewitnesses. Second, he went back to the beginning. He didn’t pick up halfway through. Third, we see that Luke was thorough. He did his homework and “investigated everything.” Fourth, we see it wasn’t done in a roughshod way. Luke “carefully investigated everything.” So, the main impact of what Luke writes is that “Christianity is true and is capable of confirmation by appeal to what happened.”[i]
In fact, one author has said, “Wherever it has been possible to check Luke’s statements, his impeccability as a historian has come to light.”[ii]
Also, the Gospel of Luke doesn’t start out like a fairytale story: “Once upon a time…” It starts out by showing us that it is a biography. Luke did his research in putting together the account about Jesus. It’s not fake news. It’s real news.
The story of Jesus—of His birth and life—is not in the same category as fiction but history. Luke reports true historical events. Or, that’s certainly what it claims to report.
So, the issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like what the Bible teaches but whether or not the Bible is true.[iii]
The story of Christmas does not have value because it is a cute story about a down-and-out couple having a child in an unexpected setting. No. The story of Christmas has value because it is a true story about the good news of rescue through Jesus.
It’s very interesting to me that Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1) was the first, and many say, the greatest Roman emperor. Actually, Augustus means, “Revered one” and some worshiped Caesar Augustus as divine. But, in his day, someone much greater was on the scene, someone truly divine. And it is actually because of this other person, this person that was a crucified Jewish carpenter, that I even know the name of Caesar Augustus.
Friends, this is good news! God has provided a Savior and we desperately need a Savior. We all fail, we all sin. As James says, “we all stumble in many ways.” Sometimes when we’re not even trying to. We don’t love others or God as we should.
The coming of Jesus the Messiah shows us that God keeps His promises. His promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), David (2 Sam. 7:16), Israel (Deut. 30:1, 5), and all people (Gen. 3:15). We see this truth highlighted a bunch throughout Luke chapters 1 and 2.
And that’s really good news. God kept His past promises. He said He would send a rescuer and He sent Jesus to rescue in ways that are mindboggling. And soon we’ll have perfect joy before Him. That promise too will come true.
Brothers and sisters, through the Messiah, we have light instead of darkness. Soon pervasive peace.
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,…
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ…
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,…
Brothers and sisters, we have good news even in this stinky year because Jesus came to bring good news of great joy…
for All Peoples
Who is this good news for? It is “for all the people” (Luke 2:10). “Regardless of nationality, age, wealth, fame, social position, sex, education, etc.”[iv]
Also, Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds. As a class of people shepherds had a bad reputation. They were often known for stealing. They were also considered unreliable and were not even allowed to give testimony in the court of law (Talmud, Sanhedrin, 25b).[v]
Jesus is the deliver, master, and anointed king. Yet, He is born among very common folk. He is not born with pomp in a palace. He’s born around stinky smells in a mere stable.
What an amazing irony that the most amazing event of history took place in a lowly manger. Yet, how fitting because God elevates the lowly, and He humbles the proud. We see this also through the angelic announcement. The King’s birth was not announced to other kings, though Herod hunted for news. No! The news, the amazing news, was given to shepherds. The announcement to the humble was a harbinger of things to come.
The Lord cares for all and identifies with ordinary people.
Respond to the News
Look at Luke 2:13-14: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.'”
The angels themselves are in awe of God! The angels can’t help but praise God! The fact that God became flesh and was born to a poor family in a mere manger was indescribably awesome to the angels. They had never seen the wonder of God’s love shown to such an extent. And they responded as we all should. They praised God! And they desired that others give Him His rightful praise too.
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic hosts proclaim:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the newborn King!'”
How will you respond?
Let’s look at how the shepherds responded in Luke 2:15-20:
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
The shepherds were in the middle of something, they were keeping watch over the sheep. Yet, we see they hurried off. We don’t even know what they did about the sheep. The shepherds’ main concern was to act. To respond. To see the Savior.
Yet, we should understand why. Is there more amazing news?!
That’s news to be told, at least, if we actually believe it.
Do you really believe it?
Do you really believe this is real news of great joy for all people?
Brothers and sisters, this news is real. Jesus did come. Jesus, who deserves to be magnified forever, was born in a manger. And the good news is He came as our Rescuer, our Savior. So, treasure up this truth in your heart and praise the Lord for the real good news we celebrate at Christmas.
On a day, a real day in history, in a city, in a real place, the Savior, came to take our sin away. The Messiah came to fulfill our hopes and keep His promise. The Lord came to defeat death and make us safe forevermore.
That’s why we have great joy. That’s why Christmas is such great news.
That’s why Christmas is real good news of great joy for all people.
[i] N. B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, 44.
[ii] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, 141.
[iii] See Keller who makes this point in The Reason for God p. 210.
[iv] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, 152.
[v] Leon Morris, Luke, 101.
*Photo by Tim Mossholder
Some “Christmas Songs” should be all the time Songs
We thankfully don’t limit songs that refer to the cross or the resurrection to Easter. So why do we limit songs about Christ’s advent and incarnation to the Christmas season?
Jesus’ coming and incarnation are not just relevant in December. Those profound truths are relevant in the summer too.
The word “Christmas” comes from what the day, December 25th, was set apart to do. It was set apart to be a “mass on Christ’s day.” That is, Christmas was a day designated to celebrate and contemplate Christ’s coming and why He came.
Christmas certainly has a worthy goal. Just as Easter (Resurrection Sunday!) is a special day set apart on the Lord’s day to especially celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We, however, can rightly remember Jesus’ resurrection every Sunday/Lord’s Day, indeed every day!
I am convinced certain “Christmas songs” should be more common throughout the year. Perhaps we should rename Christmas songs “Advent” or “Incarnation” songs. For that is what they’re about.
They are not about the hustle and bustle of the season. They have nothing really to do with red and green or Santa or reindeer or snow. But, Christ’s advent and incarnation have to do with everything because they affect everything.
We are amiss when we miss the relevance of Christ’s coming and incarnation in the spring, summer, and fall. Songs are partly meant to be sung to help us recall what we should never forget. They are a trumpet blast to our lousy memories.
So, some “Christmas songs” should be all the time songs.
Here are fives Advent/Incarnation songs we should sing year round:
Here’s why we should sing this song all year long: the song is great lyrically and musically. The lyrics might be a little archaic at points but it’s worth putting in the work to understand.
“Thou Rod of Jesse” refers to Jesus the Promised One. He is the one that brings victory from Satan’s plots. So, we can and should rejoice because Emmanuel (which means God with us) has come.
2. “O Holy Night”
How could you not appreciate those lines? And I don’t think those lines are just powerful during the Christmas holiday.
5. “Joy to the World”
*Photo by David Beale