CHRISTMAS MESSAGE by Dr. John Jun
Good News of Great Joy
Key Verse 2:10
The angel said, "good news of great joy." Where on earth is there such good news of great joy? Nowadays bad news is overflowing. Since America declared war against Iraq, 2000 America soldiers have died. New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Over 1000 people died and 1 million people lost their homes. There are also many problems in our economy. Airplane and automobile companies have gone bankrupt and had to fire many people. College graduates have difficulty in finding jobs. Recently, one Northwestern University student committed suicide being burdened by his school study. But the angel said that the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all the people. Today let us think about why the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all the people.
Part 1. Jesus was laid in a manger (1-7)
At the time of Jesus' birth, Rome ruled the world as the only superpower nation. Look at verse 1. "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." Caesar Augustus ruled the world with the slogan, "Peace of Rome." This slogan meant that world peace could be maintained only under Roman rule. But this was nothing but a political slogan. Colonial people were suffering much due to heavy taxation and political oppression. At that time Caesar Augustus' decree was absolute and fearsome. At his decree to take a census, everybody became fearful and went to their hometown to register. Even a bride and bridegroom had to postpone their wedding day and go to their hometown to register. Even hospital patients and women who had reached the full term of preg¬nancy had to go to their hometown to register. Also in Nazareth the carpenter Joseph and his fiancee Mary who had reached the full term of her preg¬nancy joined the crowd who went to register.
Look at verses 4-7. "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Bethlehem means, "House of bread." It was a country town where people were very hospitable. But under the cruelty of Caesar Augustus, peoples' hearts became cold. Nobody was willing to provide a room for a woman who was about to give birth to a baby. When Mary cried out, due to the pains of delivery, people blocked their ears with their hands and pretended not to hear it. We can imagine how much Joseph suffered in his heart. But there was no choice. Joseph and Mary had to go into the stinking stable of an animal and prepare themselves to deliver a baby. There Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. How on earth could this kind of thing happen?
Jesus is, in very nature, God (Php 2:6). He is the holy God who created the heavens and the earth (Jn 1:3,5). But in order to save men from their sins and eternal punishment, he became flesh and was born as a baby and laid in a manger. Nowadays even poor people deliver their babies in a hospital. At that time, nobody delivered their babies and laid them in a manger. But Baby Jesus was wrapped in a cloth and laid in a manger. Baby Jesus who was laid in a poor manger looks very sorrowful and fatalistic. But we learn from Baby Jesus who was laid in a manger how God works. God's salvation work is done through humble serving and self-sacrifice. Like Jesus, we must humble ourselves and serve campus students sacrificially in order to save their souls.
This event shows that God is the Sovereign Ruler of history. About 700 years before, God had promised through the prophet Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the town of David. In order to fulfill this prophecy, God moved the heart of Caesar Augustus to issue a decree, compelling Joseph and Mary to travel 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Our God is the Sovereign Ruler of history. He rules our lives as well as human history. We must have faith in God and live by faith in all circumstances. Praise God who is the Sovereign Ruler of history.
Part 2. Jesus is our Savior (8-14).
Verses 8-12 are the angel's Christmas message. On the night of Jesus' birth, there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night (8). An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (9). The angel said to them in verses 10,11, "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 Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." The angel told them that he brought them good news of great joy that would be for all the people. This good news is the news of the birth of Jesus. Then why is the birth of Jesus good news of great joy for all the people?
First, the Baby Jesus is the promised Messiah (11a). Look at verse 11a. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you" Baby Jesus is the promised Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. When Adam sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God promised in Genesis 3:15 that he would send the Savior among the woman's offspring. God confirmed this promise through Abraham, David and several prophets. After the long, long period of 42 generations, finally God sent Jesus to this world in order to save us from our sins. People promise many things. But they break their promises one by one. According to Carnegie's report, on the average people lie more than 20 times a day. Those who lie about 5 times are regarded as decent people. But God keeps the promises that he has made. The Baby Jesus who was laid in a manger is the promised Messiah who came to this world according to God's promise. Praise God who kept his promise to us!
Second, the Baby Jesus is Christ the Lord (11b-14). Look at verse 11b. "he is Christ the Lord." Christ the Lord means the one who was anointed by God. There are many problems in this world. But the most fundamental problem is the problem of sin and death. Sin makes people sick and useless. Due to the advancement of technology, we, who live in this 21st century, enjoy our lives outwardly as if we are living in the Garden of Eden. Famous economists predicted that we could build a utopia on earth as people's income increased. Though people's income has increased, they could not experience true happiness and satisfaction. Instead, in the midst of rapid industrialization, people became lonely and lost their humanity. People feel empty, fearful and unhappy. Satan tempts young college students to indulge in sin through novels, movies, music and especially the internet. Gradually this earth is becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Sin is not a light matter. Sin leaves a mark and makes us pay its wages. Romans 6:23a says, "The wages of sin is death." But death is not the end of everything. Hebrews 9:27 says, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." Those who commit sins are destined to receive God's fearsome judgment and be thrown into hell--the fiery lake of burning sulfur, and suffer eternal condemnation. This is called the second death. But the Baby Jesus is the Savior who came to save us from our sin and death and condemnation.
Then from what kind of sin does our Savior Jesus save us? The Baby Jesus saves us from the sin of lust. One young man became a slave of lust after enjoying porn sites on the internet. But through Bible study, he repented his sin, accepted Jesus' grace of forgiveness of sin and was set free from the power of lustful desires. Now he became a shepherd for young students who are struggling to overcome their lustful desires. The sin of immorality ruins people's lives as well as the moral fiber of a nation. Once Rome was a mighty nation. But Rome was ruined due to the sin of immorality. Only Jesus can save us from the sin of lust and immorality.
Jesus also saves us from our fatalism and sorrow. One young man is from a broken family. He majored in computer engineering and got a well-paying job in a computer game manufacturing company. Still he felt empty. He wanted to have a girlfriend, but nobody liked him. He lost the meaning of his life and wanted to commit suicide. But through Bible study, he met Jesus personally, Jesus saved him from his fatalism and sorrow. Now he became a shepherd for those who are fatalistic and sorrowful.
Nowadays it is not easy for young college graduates to find jobs in their major fields. One person I know got a Ph.D. but could not get a job. He began to deliver pizzas. Later he realized that Ph.D. might stand for Pizza Hut Delivery. When we look at this kind of harsh reality, it is easy for us to become fatalistic and fall into despair. But our Savior Jesus saves us from all kinds of fatalism and despair. In Jesus we find hope and vision to evangelize the whole world with his gospel. Jesus can change us into stewards and great workers in his world salvation work.
Jesus saves us from the power of sin and death. Our Savior Jesus gave up heavenly glory, honor and power and came to this world as a baby in a manger. He worked hard in order to heal the sick and preach the gospel. He was crucified and died on the cross as the ransom sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jesus poured out his blood in order to bear our sins in his body (1 Pet 2:24). Isaiah prophesied about Jesus who would die on the cross for the sin of the world like this: "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:5,6) When Jesus was crucified, one Roman soldier pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. But Jesus prayed for those who crucified him, as well as for all sinners. "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk 23:34)
Jesus who died on the cross rose again after three days. He became King of kings and Lord of lords. Death entered the world through Adam's sin. Before death we feel powerless. The power of death makes us sorrowful, empty and meaningless. But our Savior Jesus saves us from the power of death. When Lazarus died, Mary was overcome by the power of death. But Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and saved Mary from the power of death. Praise Jesus who came to save us from the power of sin and death.
The angel continued: "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (12) The baby lying in a manger is the sign of our Savior Jesus. As soon as the angel finished delivering the good news of great joy, suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (13,14) The coming of Jesus to this world is glory to God and peace to all men who accept him and rejoice with him.
In conclusion, why is the birth of Jesus good news of great joy? Baby Jesus saves us from our sins of lust, fatalism, and despair, as well as the power of sin and death. At this time I pray that we may accept newly the Baby Jesus who came to save us, so that our hearts may be filled with the grace and peace of Christmas. God's Christmas message to us is this: "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 Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."