Good Great All
Three words that I think capture the essence of the message from the angels to the shepherds in the fields so many years ago. The story is recorded in Luke 2:8-20.
Good Great All captures so much for me what the coming of Jesus means in our lives – Good News of a Great Joy for All People. Below is the sermon I preached on Christmas Eve this year.
(note that this manuscript is a guide for what I actually say, so grammar, etc is not the best here).
Art above is by Daniel Bonnell. Click the image for more of his amazing work.
Its late at night. Many of us have had very full days. We have had family over. Made Christmas Eve dinner. Maybe this is not the first worship service we have attended. Maybe you are sitting there thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow morning.
How early will the kids wake up?
I wonder what Santa will bring?
When are the relatives coming again?
I hope I took the meat out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner.
We all have a lot going through our minds tonight, so I want to give you something simple this evening. I am going to be speaking up here for about the next ten minutes, but if you remember nothing else of what I say in that time, I would like you to remember these three words. Three words. All I ask you to remember.
Those three words are at the core of the message the shepherds heard that night so long ago. Imagine yourself in their position. Quiet night. Watching sheep. Watching sheep. Taking a bit of a nap. Hearing a few noises. Watching sheep. Dozing off again. And then all of a sudden – BANG! The sky lights up with one angel which was probably enough to blow them away and that angel delivers a message about the birth of a child who would fulfill all the hopes and dreams they all had heard about for so long.
And as those words are starting to move from short term memory into the deeper places of their brains, the sky suddenly lights up with “a multitude” of angels. Night is turned into day. The sky erupts in a chorus of singing. Maybe some sheep get scared and start to run off. Shepherds are caught in the midst of this holy and incredible moment and everything else in their lives.
We take leave of the shepherds after their visit to the child and never hear about them further.
We are left with the message from the angels that night
Good news of a great joy for you shepherds. For you.
Good news of a great joy for the wealthy people who are already asleep in their beds. For them.
Good news of a great joy for your family and friends hoping you are ok out in the fields. For them too.
Good news of a great joy for the priests and leaders of the temple. For them.
Good news of a great joy for the Roman soliders who patrol your streets. Yes, for them too.
Good news of a great joy for the beggar who asked you for money earlier today. Yes for them.
Good news of a great joy for the person who swindled you out of money. Yes, for them too.
Good news of a great joy for all people. You, me, them, everybody.
This may have been said to shepherds in a field outside a tiny town thousands of miles away thousands of years ago, but the “all people” isn’t just for those who were alive at that time. We are part of that “all people.” The message is for us today too.
This message is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. We live in a time that we need Good News. We need Great Joy. And we need to remember that its about All People.
Good News – That phrase almost always snaps us to attention. When someone comes to us saying “Hey, I’ve got some good news to share!”…how many of us keep typing away on our blackberries or iPhones or don’t look up from the book we are reading. When we hear that phrase, we almost always stop what we are doing and lock in to what is being shared. Good news – I want to hear this.
Good news for people who have grown far too accustomed to the bad news that we hear far too often. Bad news about the future. Bad news from the doctor. Bad news from a teacher. Bad news. We need good news that reminds us that God is still at work. God is still present. God is still moving and God is still changing lives.
We need Great Joy. The statistics are staggering. The most wealthy nation in the history of the world. Homes bigger than anyone else in the world. More wealth compared to anyone else in history. Yet, more people in the United States say they are unhappy with their lives and struggle to find joy and things to celebrate in life. Maybe its that we are finding our meaning and our hope in accomplishments, possessions, and other things that ultimately disappoint.
The great Joy for a Christian is not in those things, but instead in the reality of God at work in the world in and in our lives. St Paul wrote in one of his letters,
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then make my joy complete: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand
Which leads to the final word for tonigt…ALL…
We need to remember its about All People. Its not just about those who have it all together. Its not just for those who are “in”. Its not just for those who can “pay for it.” Its not just for those who are of a certain status. Jesus, after all, said that he came not for the “healthy, but for the sick.” Jesus came for those who were broken and wounded.
Now you might say that if Jesus came just for the broken or the wounded, well, then Jesus didn’t come for all people? Actually…if we were truly honest with ourselves, we would realize that we are all pretty broken. We have all been wounded. We are all “sick.” We are all in need of redemption and new beginnings.
And that is the Good News of a Great Joy for All People. God saw the brokenness of our lives and in the life, death, and resurrection of the person this little baby eventually became, brought us that new beginning. A new beginning of our relationship with God, a new beginning of our relationship with others. Are you in need of that new beginning tonight? Are you longing for Good News? Its here. Are you aching for Great Joy? Its here. Are you feeling like you are left out or unwanted? This news is for you.
Its Good News of a Great Joy for all People. Good Great All.
So, you might be thinking again about when the kids will wake up in the morning. You might be thinking about what you are going to make for dinner. You might be thinking about what might be under the tree. You might be thinking about the place at the table that will be empty for the first time this year. You might be thinking that the base of the tree seems a bit emptier than in past years. You might be thinking of all of those things and about 100 other things. But the message is there for you tonight.