A short reading and prayer for today
The angel reassured the shepherds. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
Luke 2:10-11 NLT
The angel’s message is fascinating because its content is both incredibly Jewish and yet embraces everyone. The angel makes it clear that the baby who has just been born is the Messiah, the one who came to fulfil the Old Testament scriptures. But, at the same time, the coming of Jesus was for the whole world. Although Jesus was to focus much of his ministry on his own people, the Jews, he consistently made it clear that he had come to bring salvation to the world.
The responsibility of those of us who call ourselves Christians is to do everything in our power to make it clear that Jesus came for everyone. Sadly, churches can be extremely unfriendly and intimidating places, and people often get the impression that they are full of old people who do things in strange old-fashioned ways. That is so sad, but happily far from the truth. Churches are often full of people of all ages and most churches seek to ensure that they worship in a way that is welcoming and understandable to visitors.
There is no doubt that we all have a lot to do to help our world to grasp the angel’s message that Jesus came to bring joy. Jesus often made it clear that following him would be tough and that we would face opposition from many people, but he was consistently clear that he came to bring us joy. And joy is infinitely better than happiness, which depends on things happening. Joy depends upon our relationship with Jesus and because that is unending so too is our joy. In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus talking about the vital importance of obedience and he then says, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15.11)
That was exactly the experience of the shepherds who, once they had seen the baby Jesus, returned to their flocks full of joy. We read that they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.” (Luke 2.20) And that experience of joy can be yours and mine today as we follow Jesus.
How would you describe the joy that you have experienced since you became a Christian?
Loving Father, thank you that you sent Jesus into the world to bring us your joy. Amen
Photo – St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem