After several years of hope and loss our first son Jonah was born. He came six weeks early in a whirl of panic and prayers. He was pulling on his umbilical cord like he’d missed his bus stop. My wife was rushed in for an emergency C-section, while I was left standing in the hallway sweating, pacing, and pleading with God. It took five minutes, but it felt like decades. That wait was almost unbearable. I knew that I was really waiting for one sentence. Before I could go back into the delivery room with the doctor, he would deliver news to me. He would speak a sentence that would mean life or death. Up until that moment, all I had ever heard from doctors had been death. The moment came. The doctor stood in front of me, and I held my breath. He spoke news, not in a sentence, but in a single word.
I exhaled. Tears and unspeakable joy. It was good news. Good news that brought great joy to us, and to all of our family and friends.
Advent is a season of long-awaited news. Good news that brings great joy.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!Luke 2:8-10
For centuries prophets had spoken. The people of God had been waiting and hoping. All of creation had been pacing the floor and holding its breath. For the word of life to be spoken. For good news to be delivered. For that one baby to be born.
Then it happened. The savior was born, but other than a few shepherds on a nearby hillside, everyone missed it. God was born on this tiny planet he created. God was born to a poor unmarried teenager. God, born in a barn. God, lying in the feeding trough of a donkey. God, cooing and gurgling, surrounded by dung and hay. No cameras were flashing. No news anchors were standing by. No one on earth was aware of what just happened, except for those few confused shepherds.
I imagine them as regular Joes like most of us. I picture those shepherds as hard workers just trying to put lucky charms on the table for their kids in the morning. And like us, they lived in a world gone mad. The news of the day was mostly bad news. There was war, violence, politics, racism, fear and paranoia everywhere for them just like for us.
I imagine them leaning on their staffs that night, talking about who King Herod was going to kill next, when suddenly, the sky lit up like a Christmas tree. It became a swirl of brilliant lights and angel wings. I picture these shepherds flat on their backs with a smiling, blinding, face reflecting in their eyes, saying, “Don’t be afraid. I have some good news for you.”
The shepherds along with all of creation exhaled. I picture tears and unspeakable joy.
Good news that will bring great joy. But the angels didn’t say that this would bring great joy to just these shepherds, or to a select few people, the angels said this news would bring great joy to all people.
When Jonah was born I called all my friends and family members, we posted it on social media, and again, it was good news that brought joy to the people who cared about us, but it wasn’t good news to all people. Had one of my friends grabbed the arm of some stranger at Wal-Mart and announced that a baby named Jonah had been born to some friends of theirs, words would’ve been said, and they wouldn’t have been joyful. But this good news, the good news really is good news that brings great joy to all people, because it directly affects all people. It’s not just that a baby was born for Joseph and Mary, or that a savior was born for those shepherds, it’s that God was born for the world he made to be restored. Through that baby boy, his life, his death, and his resurrection, God is renovating everything. He is making broken things whole, old things new, wrong things right, and setting captives free. It’s good news that brings great joy to all people. All people, includes you and me.
I know I tend to miss this season of joy. I can get so consumed by the news of the day, which is mostly bad news. I can get so distracted by the stress and busyness of this season that just like everyone else, but those shepherds, I can miss Christ in my midst. I need reminded that this message from angels is a message for me.
Tears and unspeakable joy.