************ Sermon on Luke 2:10-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 16, 2007
"Good News of Great Joy"
This morning our choir is singing a cantata, "How Great Our Joy!" This musical selection celebrates the good news of our text:
(Lk 2:10-12) "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
The time of Jesus's birth was a dark and dismal period in Israel's history. The Promised Land was occupied by the Romans. The voice of the Lord had not been heard for 400 years. The Jewish faith was reduced to mere formalism by the scribes and Pharisees; a lot of the clergy looked and sounded religious but in reality were nothing but white-washed tombs. The people of God were divided into different camps: Zealots who tried to overthrow foreign oppression, Herodians who favored the policies of Herod Antipas and thus supported the Roman government, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. Within this setting, Israel needed to hear a message of joy. She needed to hear a message of hope and anticipation in order to weather the storms of life.
We know this was not the only dark and dismal period of Israel's history. For generations she wandered in the wilderness of despair, bondage, persecution, and exile. In the midst of all these dark moments the people clung to the promise of the Messiah because the Messiah's coming meant joy would be restored. The Messiah's coming is "good news of great joy" (Lk 2:10).
I Christmas Time is Joy Time
A Christmas time is meant to be joy time. This comes straight from the Bible. Remember what the angel said to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist?
(Lk 1:14) He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth ...Do you remember what Elizabeth said to Mary?
(Lk 1:44) As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.When John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, her neighbors and relatives "shared her joy" (Lk 1:58) and Zechariah sang a joyful song to the Lord (Lk 1:68-79). Remember Mary's response to all of this? She also sang a joyful song of praise to the Lord:
(Lk 1:46-47) My soul glorifies the Lord (47) and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ...The angel of Christmas Day told the shepherds,
(Lk 2:10) "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people ..."As for the shepherds, after they found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger, they returned to their sheep "glorifying and praising God" (Lk 2:20). I think of the joy of Simeon and Anna, both of whom were waiting and waiting for the Messiah's coming.
B This Biblical theme of joy has been picked up by many of our Christmas songs. Have you ever noticed the number of Christmas songs that mention joy in their title:
"Joy to the World!"
"How Great Our Joy!"
"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You"
"Good Christian Men, Rejoice"
"O Thou Joyful, O Thou Wonderful"
C The joy of the first Christmas was real. Every Christmas since then is meant to be joy time. And yet, for many people it is a time of sadness and loneliness. I think of widows without their husband. I think of parents without their children or children without their parents. I think of those who have loved ones serving overseas or doing time in prison. I think of those who can't afford presents or even a Christmas meal for their children.
II Joy in the Savior
A When we look through the Christmas story, we see that joy comes because of Jesus:
(Lk 2:10-11) "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."The shepherds are told to rejoice because the Savior has come.
When Mary sings her song of praise she gives the same reason for her joy:
(Lk 1:46-47) "My soul glorifies the Lord (47) and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ..."
Zechariah's song is like Mary's song – he also rejoices in the Savior:
(Lk 1:68-69) "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (69) He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David ..."
As he is holding the baby Jesus, Simeon praises God "For my eyes have seen your salvation" (Lk 2:30). As for Anna, "she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38).
Christmas time is joy time because "a Savior has been born" (Lk 2:11). That is the message of the angel, Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna.
Why do you rejoice? What do you rejoice in? People today believe that joy comes from a promotion at work, a rise in the stock market, a 401k retirement account, owning their own home, diamond jewelry, a championship season, a new bike or computer or video game. But joy and happiness from such things only lasts for a short time. Deep joy and full joy eludes us.
At Christmas our joy is in the Lord (Phil 4:4) and His work of salvation. The angel goes so far as to call it "great" joy – that is, deep joy, full joy. Joy, because God is at work. Joy, because God is advancing His plan for our salvation. Joy, because the Messiah has come. Joy, because God is being faithful to His covenant promises:
(Lk 2:10-11) "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
B Imagine someone doing man on the street interviews in Bethlehem or Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. People are asked to list the three problems they are most concerned about. I suspect the interviewers would hear answers like: the economy, taxes, corrupt government officials, the Zealots, the hated Roman occupation. Many in Israel hoped and prayed and looked for the Messiah, Who is also known as the Christ, to fix these problems. For when the Messiah comes "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain" (Is 40:4). When the Messiah comes the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, the mute shall talk (Is 35:5-6). When the Messiah comes all of Israel's enemies shall be defeated and Jerusalem will lie at the center of the earth.
But the number one problem is not the economy. It is not taxes. It is not corrupt government officials. It is not the Roman occupation. The number one problem is sin. And the only solution is a Savior. At Christmas God dealt with man's biggest problem. That is why Christmas time is joy time:
(Lk 2:10-11) "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
III For You
A This past week I noticed something in our text I have not noticed before. Look at verse 11: The angel said, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you ..." Notice, the angel did not say, "a Savior has been born to a girl named Mary." No, "a Savior has been born to you." Look at verse 10: "I bring you good news of great joy." And verse 12: "This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby ..."
Who is the angel talking to? The angel is talking to the shepherds. Shepherds were not highly regarded in Israel; the scribes and Pharisees regarded them as unclean. Yet, God has shown a special affection for shepherds throughout the centuries. Moses was a shepherd when God spoke to him out of the burning bush and called him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Ex 3). David, Israel's greatest king, was a shepherd when he was anointed as king (1 Sam 16:11-13). The prophet Amos was also a shepherd.
Many commentators believe that the shepherds of Bethlehem were watching over sheep destined to be sacrificed in the Temple.
Now along comes an angel of the Lord and says, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you ..." The good news was for them. The joy was for them. The Savior was for them. The sign was for them. Christ the Lord was their Savior. He was born to be their sacrificial Lamb of God.
B But notice, it is good news of great joy not just for the shepherds. It is good news of great joy "for all the people." The people in mind are the children of Israel, the people of God. Jesus is the Savior not just for unclean sinners like shepherds. But for "all the people." From King Herod to the lowliest slave in his palace. From the high-priest in the Temple to a little girl in a synagogue. From the rich to the poor. From the aristocrats to the common people. From the scribes and Pharisees and religious professionals to the lay-people. He is the Savior "for all the people."
Here is a reminder and a statement that all of God's people need saving. All of God's people are sinners. Not one of them is perfect. Not one of them has no need for the Savior. Likewise, the church is not a group of perfect people who deserve to be there. The church is a collection of sinners who need the Savior.
Our biggest problem is sin. Our biggest need is salvation. On Christmas the Savior has come. How great our joy!
(Lk 2:10-11) "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
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