You think Christmas will make you happy? – Greg Laurie –
Despite the fact that the message of Christmas is joy and happiness, I must admit that I get pretty stressed out at this time of year. It is because of shopping.
You can go to the mall for what you think will be just a couple of hours and end up spending the whole day. Then, when you think you are done, that no one is left on your list to buy for, you remember the one person you forgot. By then, you have pulled out of your valuable parking space and find yourself stalking people in the parking lot just to find another one. Then you spot someone coming out of the mall and hitting the remote. You pull up and wait as she slowly opens the trunk and loads her packages. Your turn signal is on, indicating to everyone within a half-mile radius that this is your space. She slowly gets into the car. She adjusts the mirror. She puts on her makeup. Then, she gets out of her car and goes back in to shop some more. She was never leaving in the first place! You want to hurt this person. You are not having a joyful Christmas. In fact, you are very ready for all the Christmas hoopla to end.
It is ironic that we could get sick of Christmas, because the theme of the season is joy. And what we must not lose sight of is that Christmas is a celebration of great joy. That is the message the angels delivered that night to the shepherds as they kept watch over their flocks: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10 NIV) – not just joy, but great joy.
The angels did not take their message to Caesar’s court or to the religious leaders or to key influential people. Instead, they went to the lowest of the low on the cultural ladder of the day. Shepherds were despised – so much so that the testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court of law. The only people lower than the shepherds at this particular time in Jewish history were those with leprosy. Yet the shepherds were the people to whom the angels delivered their message of joy.
It symbolizes the ministry of Jesus. He was always reaching out to the down-and-outers: the tax collector Zacchaeus, who had no friends, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Unknown people … common people – these were the ones Jesus found time for. These were the ones Jesus deeply cared for. So it is only appropriate that the announcement of his birth was initially made to shepherds. They became the first heralds of the first Christmas.
The shepherds heard the angel say, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy." One of the most common angelic opening statements recorded in the Bible is, "Do not be afraid," or a variation of it. The reason being is that when people saw angels, they freaked out. So the angel essentially told the shepherds, "Don’t be afraid. I have a message for you. This is good news that you need to know so you can have great joy."
Fear can rob us of our joy. And back in those days, they had a lot to be afraid of. They were living under the reign of the tyrant Herod, who could execute at will. And as Jews who were living in a land occupied by Rome, they were fearful about their future. They were probably wondering whether Rome would ever leave. Would they ever be free again? Would their Messiah ever come?
So the angels were saying, "Don’t be afraid. The Messiah has come."
Like the shepherds, we can be filled with fear because of the world we live in. Maybe you are afraid of losing your job or your house. Maybe you are afraid of the economy getting worse or your health giving out. Maybe you are afraid of not being able to pay off the credit cards you overcharged for the Christmas presents you bought. The epitaph could be written on countless American gravestones: "Hurried, worried and buried."
Are you worried right now? Are you filled with fear? The message of Christmas is "Don’t be afraid. …" The precondition of joy is to let go of fear. You might be thinking, How can I have joy? I am having a hard time this Christmas. I am having problems … problems in my career … problems in my marriage … problems with my health. I can’t be joyful.
The joy the Bible speaks of is something far deeper than a mere superficial joy. It is an abiding joy not based on circumstances.
If you are looking to this world to be happy, you never will be. If you are looking to money to be happy, you never will be. If you are looking to people to be happy, you never will be. If you are looking to Christmas to be happy, you never will be. You need to know the Christ of Christmas. That is the answer.
C. S. Lewis said, "God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other."
The same Jesus who was born in a manger and lived the perfect life, never sinning, voluntarily went to a cross and died there for the sin of the world. Then he rose again from the dead. He is alive. Talk about God’s Christmas tree. It is not the gifts under the tree – it is the gift on the tree. Jesus hung there and took all of the penalty of sin upon himself for you and for me. That is the gift God offers you – the gift of eternal life. There is no greater Christmas gift than this.