The birth of Jesus Christ is the greatest reason for joy in the history of the world. Today people all over the world are seeking true and lasting joy. It was the same in the first century.
The night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to some hill shepherds and announced, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.
Then a great choir of angels sang praise to God: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people on whom his favour rests’.
There is one true and living God who brings us joy. He has wonderfully broken into this world in his Son, Jesus. He has not left us to seek after him like people groping in the dark, but in Jesus he has intervened to give us joy.
There were sceptics then as there are now – people who don’t believe anything and who seek to spread their own misery to others. If there really is no God, then this world is a very dark place! No one to hear and help; no one to right the wrongs; no one able to intervene.
But in Jesus, God has declared that he is there and that he is active in his world. God is interested in ordinary people. The shepherds were low paid, unimportant people, doing a night shift on the hills in the midst of winter. They had no social standing in Israel. Yet God sent an angel to tell them the good news. They mattered to God.
There is no one so insignificant that they are of no importance to God. So God cares about you. He made you and you matter to him. His great love for you has been expressed in Jesus, so that you may experience his love.
God knows that we need to be saved – all of us. He gives us the joy of knowing his Son as our Saviour. It is obvious to all who have eyes to see that God’s beautiful world is scarred by sin.
Every day the news reminds us of the evil in the world. In our personal lives we struggle to do what is right and fail miserably. However much we try to ignore it, there is that deep inner sense that one day we will be called to account for how we have lived.
Jesus came to pay the price for our sin by dying on the cross. As we trust in him, we experience the joy of forgiveness and a new relationship with God as our heavenly Father.
All over the world today, people are experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ. Tribal people living in Papua have responded in great numbers to the good news of Jesus and have been set free from all their superstitions and fears.
Young people in Mongolia are believing in Jesus in great numbers. They are experiencing joy in a country impoverished by many years of communist rule. Students in the UK and Europe, facing the disintegration of their culture, are turning to Jesus Christ.
A few years ago I met a Muslim man, a doctor, who had become a Christian. While he was a medical student he was given a Bible by a friend. As he read the Bible he was attracted to Jesus’ teaching and began to pray and seek God. One night he had a vivid dream about the Day of Judgment.
The dream was so beautiful he could not adequately describe it. He saw himself standing with a group of people looking into the sky. He saw a fist and from it a fierce eagle flying towards them. He knew that as long as he remained with these people he was in danger.
He moved away from them and joined another group of people. As they too looked into the sky, he saw an open hand and a dove flying from it landing on his shoulder. He knew there was a place of safety and that Jesus is alive and loved him. Later he spoke to Christians and after hearing the gospel message received Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
God reveals his love and grace to those who seek him. The shepherds responded to the angels’ message by going to Bethlehem and seeing the baby who had been born.
Then they told everyone about it and returned to their flocks filled with praise and worship to God. Their work as shepherds didn’t change, but now they experienced a real and wonderful joy in their hearts. They had believed God’s message and had trusted in his Son.
The message of the angels to the shepherds is also a message to you. In the midst of this busy Christmas period, make sure you find time to focus on the One who is the heart of it all.
A Saviour has come and he brings true joy to all who trust in him. The joy he gives doesn’t fade like the festive season, but lasts and deepens until we enter into the eternal joy of God’s presence in heaven.
Peter Milsom is an elder at St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff and Chairman of Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales.