…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’ (Luke 2:10).
Four thousand years after the Fall, the Lord’s promise that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen.3:15) was fulfilled. The Saviour had come.
Though His coming fulfilled scriptural prophecy and was confirmed with angelic visitation, the Bible says that “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn.1:11-12).
We know that the coming of the Saviour means a lot of things. His people are reconciled with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, Who makes “…all things new” (Rev.21:5). The coming of the Saviour means that our sins are not counted against us, and we have been forgiven. A perfect Man has taken them away with His blood, and He now serves as our advocate with the Father (I Jn.2:1), Who loves us.
But there is more, much more. Jesus’ coming at Bethlehem meant that the stage has been set for reconstruction. The disaster of the Garden, just as it was initiated by a man’s failure, has now been reversed and redeemed by a man- the Son of God.
Now, God’s people have responsibilities and opportunities in the world, to serve as Christ’s ambassadors. Yes, this begins with evangelism, such as we see in Philip’s ministry to Samaria, which led to there being “…much rejoicing in that city” (Acts 8:8).
It also includes us declaring what Paul called “…the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) to the generation we’re part of. This means reading, understanding and applying the scripture to all of life, not just for ourselves as individuals, families and members of churches, but as godly people of influence in the community.
The experience of the thief on the cross was glorious but atypical, when he received the Lord only moments before death. Christians are called to be salt and light in their respective communities, and Christians have done this over two thousand years. It involves them in challenge and conflict with those who are unwilling to accept change. Lots of God’s enemies have said what the Jews of Thessalonica claimed about Jason and the believers: “These men who have upset the world have come here also” (Acts 17:6).
Christians don’t want conflict for its own sake, but when the world is out of harmony with God’s plan, we are obligated to initiate change, and we can do this successfully. When the snake’s in the garden speaking again to individuals and bringing harm, we want to do something about it before it’s too late; that’s what we’re called to.
The “good news of great joy” has massive implications for every community. The Bible tells us that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps.33:12), and that “many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people” (Zech.2:11). I understand that many have interpreted this in terms of the Second Coming, but Jesus promised that “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (Mat.13:33). The stone “cut out without hands” that struck the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan.2:34, 35).
Jesus saying that “…It was all leavened…” leaves nothing out. It means music, culture, art, and the academics like science, economics and education. It means law, government and foreign affairs. All human activity is to be subject to God and His Word. This is how the kingdom of God will “fill the whole earth.”
“Joy to the world” began with the coming of the Saviour. It progresses with the conversion of individuals, and the changing of families and communities. But it doesn’t stop there. The gospel requires that God be honoured in every aspect of a nation’s life.
May we all at this time rejoice in the “good news of great joy,” centred around the birth of our Saviour. But also, may we faithfully take up His ambassadorial tasks, until “…all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Nu.14:21).