And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
2020 has been a year none of us imagined or planned for. The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines. We all at some point were glued to our screens wondering if life will ever be the same again. Every day our TV screens were flashing with information that was mostly disheartening. Everyday people were getting infected and so many could not make it back to their homes. In the midst of all this sorrow, everyone was hoping to hear some good news. Imagine if one of the pharmaceutical companies had made an announcement that they had already planned for this and had made a vaccine for every possible outbreak including COVID-19. How the whole world would have erupted in joy and gratitude toward this amazing company. How the world would have known about the power of the announcement of good news!
In a similar, but infinitely more serious way we too have been deeply affected by sin which brings eternal death and separation from God. So, the announcement that came from heaven at the birth of Christ is good news that is beyond our imagination. This announcement came to humble shepherds out in the fields of Bethlehem. It is a historic announcement which was made 2,000 years ago during the reign of Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria, according to Luke 2:1. This announcement is the fulfilment to many prophecies that God would provide a deliverer for sinners one day.
To understand the immense significance of this announcement we must understand the storyline of the Bible. All of the Bible can be summed up in two men who are heads or representatives of a larger group (Romans 5). The first man is Adam whom God created out of the earth (Genesis 2) as a representative and father of all mankind. God who is invisible, eternal and perfect in all of His attributes is so awesome that He came down to Adam’s level to enter into an agreement with him. After providing everything richly to Adam, there was only one command that Adam had to obey. He had to trust God’s word, character and so honour Him. His Creator commanded him to not eat of one fruit in the midst of a garden paradise where he was placed. It was a test for Adam and Eve, our first parents. If they honoured God by obeying, they would keep their terms and would be heirs of eternal life with God. They would pass onto us an amazing gift, too. The gift of not inheriting a sinful nature and not having condemnation upon our heads. But sadly, Adam and Eve disobeyed and rebelled against God. They preferred to trust Satan; a fallen angel who has been bent on ruining God’s purposes. Due to their sin, they lost their status as God’s vice rulers of the earth. The fall of mankind into sin is the greatest tragedy of all. We see how this sin nature is rampant even in our lives today. We do not have to teach kids how to disobey and disrespect others. They do it by a sinful nature that is already in them by birth because of man’s union with the first Adam. The end of all this sinning for mankind is a terrifying separation from a holy God in a place of painful torment called Hell. Our condition is desperate because every righteous act that we seek to do is also tainted with sin and pride.
But the Bible even from its earliest chapters in Genesis 3:15, has promised that “the seed of the woman” one day will destroy the head of the snake who was influenced by Satan. God chose an unworthy man Abraham and made a great nation out of him (Genesis 12). God’s ultimate plan was to send the “second Adam” who was also going to be the head or representative of a new redeemed and saved humanity. But, Jesus Christ, the second Adam, was going to be fully human, born of a woman, who was Mary. At the same time, He was going to be fully divine because He is the eternal Son of God. God’s plan was that He would sit on the throne of David and rule forevermore with a saved people. God’s plan was that Christ would fully obey and please God by fulfilling all God’s righteous commands. This representative would not fail His people. He would accomplish all righteousness and die as a sacrifice and offering for His people and then rise up again to prove to all that the problem of sin and death has been taken care of forever (Isaiah 53). He would give those who believe in Him an everlasting righteousness and let them have eternal life and friendship with God forever.
This is the great background into which on an ordinary night outside Bethlehem came astounding news. The shepherds were considered poor and ceremonially unclean because they often would come into contact with animals and their defilement. We do not even know their names or which villages they belonged to. All we know is that as soon as Jesus, the second Adam, was born the news was first conveyed to humble shepherds. This whole book of Luke then continues this theme that Jesus was sent for those who are outcasts and sinners. The news was brought by angels from heaven because the Saviour had come from heaven. The glory of God shone around these shepherds because angels serve God in a heavenly realm full of glory in His presence. The news they brought was not of terror, but great joy. In the past, God used some powerful angels to bring judgement upon sinners. But this time, it is about the great salvation and rescue that God has provided for sinners.
The question begs to be asked, what exactly is the content of this news that brings us great joy? Is it the end of the Roman occupation of the land of Palestine? Is it the relaxation of heavy taxes? Is it the announcement of monetary relief to each family? The news is much greater than that. It’s the news that the Saviour and Deliverer who can save us from the eternal guilt of our sins has been born. The rescuer who will take the curse of our disobedience upon Himself has been born (Galatians 3). The saviour who will be forsaken on the cross as He bears our judgement has been born. The rescuer who will die our death and who will rise and ascend victorious to heaven has been born. The complete rescuer who will unite sinners to Himself and bring His children to glory has been born (Hebrews 2). He is Christ the anointed one of God and He is Lord of all. This means that God Himself has come to us in Jesus Christ. He will have all rule and authority, by His great work, He will accomplish salvation for mankind.
Another very important aspect to consider in this great announcement, is that the Saviour is a shepherd for his people. He is for women who have greatly sinned by having extra-marital affairs. He is for sinners who were dominated by greed becoming tax collectors and betrayed their own people to work for the Romans. He was for people who were outside Israel and who came seeking Jesus like the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7). He is for non-Jewish people like Theophilus to whom Luke is writing. He is for the rich and accomplished and He is for the poor and downtrodden. He is for all mankind because all mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
So, the best thing about Christmas, even if it happens to be a Christmas time during 2020, is that a Saviour for all people was born 2,000 years ago. The shepherds received this news wholeheartedly and rejoiced after they personally saw the newborn babe in a smelly manger. The same offer from heaven still stands for us today. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should never perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). To believe in Christ the Saviour then is to enter into a joy that is greater than the darkest of times.
Vineet Sasane is the Pastor at Jeevant Asha Bible Church, Pune, Maharashtra. He is married to Sayia and they have two children.