A BUNDLE OF JOY
By Pastor Jurgen Rausch
Dec. 8, 2013
"8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”…. 16) So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17) When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18) and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them". Luke 2:8-12, 16-18.
Introduction: A Bundle of Joy
'A bundle of joy' – ever heard that expression? We use it in conjunction with a baby’s birth. As we 'coo' and 'ah' over a pretty baby in the crib, we call it 'a bundle of joy'!
In fact, our family will be getting its first ever 'next generation bundle of joy' in just a couple of months and we will undoubtedly 'coo' and 'ah' along with the best of them!
Christmas is all about a baby’s birth and the second candle of advent commemorates the 'theme of Joy', witnessed at Jesus’ birth. I am sure that he too was a bundle of joy to his mom and many others who gazed upon the baby.
However, I want to tell you, that this is not what Luke had in mind when he quoted the angels as calling his birth “good news of great joy”.
These angels were not 'cooing and ah-ing' over the baby in the crib, nor were they saying: “Now isn’t that the prettiest little thing you have ever laid your eyes on?”
Somehow I doubt that they were expressing how enamored they were at the cuteness of this baby. So, allow me to suggest to you, that they had something entirely different in mind.
Great News Given
It had to do with what the birth of this baby meant – that this would be "good news that would bring great joy to all mankind".
No doubt it was this “good news of great joy” that they were so jazzed about; and yet, just like with anything in life, only those most in need of it, would see it most clearly as such.
Just like gifts are best, when given to those who desperately need them the most, and just like food is given best to those who desperately need it the most, so also the news of His birth would be received the best, by those most desperate for it.
You give a simple, nutritious meal to a starving child somewhere; and I will guarantee you that they will receive it completely differently than a child here in the west. You clothe a child that’s naked and they will be deeply grateful for what we would call a 'cast off'.
Similarly, news becomes 'good news of great joy' only by those most desperate for it. And who more desperate then those, who have never received good news of any kind?
It is only those who are most desperate for good news, for who this good news would result in great joy; just like the poor kids in India will flip out with joy over receiving a simple little Operation Christmas Child gift box.
The point being, that the feeling of joy associated with news, is only among those who are most desperate for it.
If you are desperate, if you are hungry, if you are poor and without, you will simply not be able to contain yourself, but receive good news in an exuberant, over the top sort of way. The more desperate the more joyful; and in a moment we’ll look at how desperate they actually were.
But first, let’s consider the content of this 'news gift'. What was this good news delivered at the hands of angels?
Well, if vs. 10 describes the announcement of "good news of great joy" then vs. 11 describes what it was, namely that:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Three things worth noting: A savior born, an Anointed One, the Lord Himself.
a. A Savior Born!
A Savior born! Lest that fool you into shrugging it off as 'just another savior', the angels made it very clear that this was not just another run-of-the-mill savior.
Saviors could be dismissed fairly easily in those days. Theirs was an era of hyper religious fanaticism with numerous false messiah sightings. Similar to UFO or Elvis sightings in our days; so it could be very conceivable that such announcements were somewhat common.
So how would this be different? For one thing, this savior would actually be the Savior – that is, he would save and free people from their chains. Not from the chains and oppression of Rome or some other tyrant, but from the chains of their sins, which were by far the more powerful chains then any chains Rome could ever produce.
Matthew tells us:
“he will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:25).
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Sure enough, upon his death and resurrection he delivers the goods. He offers forgiveness of sins to whosoever. Thus this Savior is different in that he actually saved people!
b. The Anointed One
He is the Anointed One. He was meant to be the Savior. Just like you and I are meant to be something unique that no one else can , so He was meant to be the Savior. That’s what makes Him different!
A Savior, not coming from Rome or Egypt, not even from Nazareth or Bethlehem. Even though he was born in Bethlehem, he didn’t come from there.
So the mystery deepens. How can he come from Bethlehem and yet not be from there? After all I was born in Jugenheim, Germany, thus I came from there.
While you and I may be from the places where we were born, this one was not. Not only was he not conceived or born in the conventional sense of a definite beginning somewhere, he actually hails from heaven. His so-called “birth” was not his beginning. He existed before Mary ever did and his claims of existence go back to infinity (you will recall his famous saying: “Before Abraham was, I am”).
So he is unique. Very unique. You can see that,- in that the angels called Him not only Savior,- but also Christ:
“A Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”
He is Christ –“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which in English literally means, “the Anointed One”.
Another one of those words that has fallen out of vogue in our time. When was the last time you heard the word “anointed”? Not a common word and it’s our loss.
What does “the anointed one” mean? Anointed means set apart, specifically chosen, singled out by God. He had been singled out to be the Savior and as such carries God’s divine zeal of endorsement!
How could he possibly fail with such an endorsement?
No one was ever anointed or chosen by God for this task except of him:
“There is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved” Acts 4:12.
Other saviors may be self appointed or man appointed, but only Jesus was divinely appointed to be the Savior.
c. The Lord Himself!
Not only was he Christ, he was also Lord:
“a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.”
Jesus is Savior. Jesus is Christ. And Jesus is Lord.
This is different from the earthly title “Lord” such as the Lord Mayor of London or Niagara on the Lake. 'Lord' is a title used only for God in the Jewish Scriptures and so to call him Lord is to call him God.
Not only commissioned by God, but God in the flesh. What a Savior he would be! How could God fail? He would save his people from their sins, no doubt about that!
That was the good news announced: A Messiah born, an Anointed One, the Lord Himself.
… Given to Lowly Shepherds
In the hearts of those, not familiar with good news of any kind, this would explode as unexpectedly glorious joy! "good news of great joy" among those, not used to good news of any sort.
Which brings me back to whom this news was first given to. It was given to those who never receive good news, who are never the first in line and who are always last to hear; it was given to the lowly shepherds of Bethlehem:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9
Not only were they lowly Shepherds, but look at where they were living, out in the fields! No place to call their own, nomads & wanderers; despised and distained by most, overworked and poorly paid. Not very romantic, is it? Not very idyllic!
Such were the Shepherds of Bethlehem. To those shepherds the angels came. Not to kings, priests or royalty, not to the rich and famous, but to lowly Shepherds.
It makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?
Was it so that once in their lifetime the tables would be turned? Maybe.
Was it so because Jesus was a common man’s Savior? Perhaps.
Was it because Jesus himself would be homeless, born in someone else’s manger and laid to rest in someone else’s tomb? Could be.
OR is it that those who know they have nothing, know they are nothing and know that they are at the end of the receiving line, are most receptive and appreciative for any gifts given?
Again, back to the idea of the starving children who will devour even a simple meal, while those who are full won’t even touch it; or the poor orphan who goes bonkers over an Operation Christmas Child gift box, while most in the west wouldn’t event look at it.
I would suggest to you, that the reason why the shepherds were singled out, was not so that the tables could be turned, or that a common man’s savior could be announced; nor even because he would himself be homeless during his ministry.
While these are all great reasons, I would suggest to you that these shepherds were spiritually like the hungry kids you see on TV.
Not only were they spiritually poor, but they recognized their spiritual poverty in such a way that they would be profoundly receptive to what was offered that day.
To them, and to all those like them, it is indeed "good news of great joy"!
It is the hungry and the thirsty – "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" – who would long for a slice of the bread of life and a sip of the living water; who would cherish it, consume it and share it with others.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” Matt. 5:3-6
Yup, that would be the shepherds!. Who Share It With the World!
Sure enough, these shepherds were overjoyed, dropping everything and ran toward the place where the child would be.
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger”. Luke 2:16
Would the rich and famous have done the same? Not sure; maybe, maybe not; but the shepherds were hungry enough that they would run to the place where the 'bread of life' would be found.
Not only did they find Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger, but look at what else they did:
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17)
Thus they become the Gospels’ first evangelists!
After all, didn’t the angels make it crystal clear that this was to be for all:
“good news that will cause great joy for all the people”
Good news is meant to be shared, folks. Plain and simple. Not be horded. Not to be kept tucked away. Good news is meant to be shared.
One starving beggar, telling another starving beggar, where there is bread.
None to be excluded; neither peasant nor pauper, neither royalty nor priest. Good news of sins forgiven, debts cancelled and the promise of a clean slate was to be for all.
Thus “they spread the word” and we must as well!
Conclusion: So, Come On! Ring Those Bells!
This is really important. As we close, you need to hear this: They spread the word! They went wherever they could, intentionally sought out people who would want to hear and told them the message of the angels:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
We must do the same! We are not silent witnesses. We are not monuments. We are not passive in sharing the good news. We do not wait until they come to us but instead we intentionally find ways to share this with friends and strangers.
We do as the shepherds did: beggars, telling other beggars, where to find bread!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.