124. The reason for great joy.
'The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. 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." (Luke 2:10-11) The shepherds definitely did not comprehend the depth of this proclamation but nevertheless, they believed and hurried off to see what they were told. "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." ... 'The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.'( Vs 15-20) The shepherds rejoiced because of what they had heard and seen but we rejoice because of what has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, though we haven't heard nor seen anything but nevertheless have believed as the shepherds did. But if we have no joy, that is probably because we haven't understood the Gospel ! So what is it in the Gospel that makes it so good? What is it that calls for such great joy and celebration? Had the Son of God just visited us and went back to where he came from, that would have been of some joy but momentary because after he was gone, our lives would have carried on the same way and we would have continued in our misery! That would be like visiting a man in debt and wishing him well instead of helping him. What good will that gesture bring about for him? But the Son of God not only visited us but also took away our sins, our curses and sickness upon himself and died before he returned to where he came from. That sounds better but not good enough because there wouldn't be anything new that would have been added to our lives except that the old had been taken away. That would be like clearing the debts of the man but still leaving him with no means to earn a living. Though that would be of some relief to him, it still wouldn't fix the cause of his misery! But the Son of God not only visited us and took away our sins, curses and sickness but also gave us everything that we needed for life and godliness, before he went back to where he came from. It is not just the taking away but the giving that makes the Gospel such good news of great joy! Righteousness instead of sin; Blessings instead of curses; Healing instead of sickness! What a divine exchange! The Holy Spirit not only comes to impart this righteousness to us but his presence takes residence within us forever! Moreover, the gospel holds promises not only for this life but for the one to come ! Not only were our spirits made alive when his Holy Spirit came within to impart that righteousness, but the day is coming when these bodies of ours will be transformed into his likeness. 'If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.' (Romans 8:10-11) Not only does the Gospel hold promises for us while on earth, but it holds promises for us in heaven! God has prepared for us a celestial city, the heavenly Jerusalem, the abode of righteousness where we will dwell forever. 'I saw the Holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:2-3) Not only are our bodies healed, but there is an inner healing that we will experience in the place where there are no tears. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away." (21:4) If the Gospel doesn't change our lives, what will? If this Gospel doesn't give us joy, what will? Not a seasonal joy that we need to wait for until the next year to experience again but a perpetual joy that we can experience everyday of the year! If we have understood the Gospel, then we have a reason to rejoice. 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) Let the celebration continue! Amen.