Surely you remember it!? "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid! I bring you Good News that will cause great joy for all the people!" (Luke 2:10). It is part of the Christmas Story we have all heard. If you were at the Community Christmas Tree Lighting or at 1st service last week, you have heard these words at least twice this Christmas. I hope you hear it many more times and I hope you listen to what this short little passage is saying to us.
The angel is saying Jesus is coming to town. To Bethlehem. To Judea. To all people. To the world. The angel is clear ... this is a message of Good News, quelled fear, and great joy. So ... and this is to all my Christian friends and my family of believers ... why not joy? In fact, why not GREAT JOY!?
Here is what I think is happening. In John 10:10 we hear that Satan, represented by poor leadership in Israel (corporately) and by the very real person of Satan (individually), comes to steal and destroy. One thing done by Satan and misdirected leaders is this 'stealing' of joy. Joy can be stolen by 1) continually delivering the body punches of negativity, 2) continually highlighting fear, 3) continually ignoring the Gospel and 4) continually dwelling on guilt as a tool of manipulation. Jesus addressed this when he said (also from John 10:10) "I came so you may have life, and have it to the full." COVID-19 isn't the only contagious thing going around ... all of the above things that steal our joy can be contagious and lethal to faith. So what do we do?
The angel gives us great advice. First, do not be afraid. If you are in places where you are hearing a barrage of fear-mongering, get out of those places. Second, remember the 'euangelion' (in Biblical Greek this is the word for Gospel or Good News). Third, remember that Jesus coming to town should have a causal impact on us ... the angel said the Good News will cause great joy. Finally, remember that this joy is something that we desire to contract.
I am going to leave this blog today with a bit of advice. Get the world and Jesus into the right perspective. We are in the world to be light, a blessing and little expressions of Jesus. We are not in the world to be joyless, hopeless and peaceless. The Advent candles lit so far are hope and peace. This Sunday we light the candle of joy. In Wesleyan tradition these candles are outward signs of inward grace which brings truth into our lives. That truth comes from God's Word. If you will take notice, hope, peace and joy are in short supply if you listen to talking heads, angry preachers and joyless posts on social media. How is that working for us? Would it be better to listen to negative people who are agents of stealing our joy, or would the Advent of Jesus (He did come to town and He is coming back) be better expressed by following what the Christmas angel said ... "Do not be afraid. I bring you Good News that will cause great joy for all people." Good News causes great joy! That's my take! Randy