Finding Good News
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Finally! The waiting is almost over. Soon we will be opening gifts around the Christmas tree, and our hearts will be overflowing with joy and gratitude. Is there anything more fun than the excitement of children as they tear into wrapping paper to reveal the special present inside? As we reflect on the scripture leading us to this point in the Christmas story, we can imagine the looks of awe and wonder on the faces of the shepherds, on Mary and Joseph, and on all who witnessed the miracle of the birth of the Messiah.
Did they really, truly understand what kind of Messiah they were getting for Christmas? Not likely. For generations the Jewish people had waited, prayed for, longed for the One who would liberate them from their various oppressors. The One who would be their King, who would sit on the throne of David and whose kingdom would never end. Their expectations were understandable, given the prophecies they remembered. But just as our expectations are influenced by the details we choose to focus on, the Jewish people had directed their attention to the prophecies that made the Messiah out to be a military man, someone who would conquer Rome and take back Israel. They neglected to remember the promise of a Savior who would liberate them from the worst oppressor of all: their own sins.
Still, it was a night for celebration. A baby born in a stable! The brightest star ever seen! A chorus of angels singing! You can’t make this stuff up. It was like being in the studio audience at the Oprah Winfrey show: Good News for you! And Good News for you! And you, and you, and you. Good News for everybody! With only a very few exceptions, God had not walked on earth among his people since they were expelled from the garden for their disobedience. Now, God’s holiness and human sinfulness intersected in a manger in Bethlehem, and the world was forever changed. Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever. And everybody could share it because salvation through this child would be freely offered to all who believed in him.
At this time of gift giving, we tend to focus on the receivers of gifts. We love to watch people’s faces light up as the presents go around and wishes are fulfilled. But if you’ve ever given children ten dollars and taken them shopping for a little something for their loved ones, watch those children’s faces on Christmas morning. It is more blessed to give than to receive—we’ve all heard that—and it’s true, isn’t it? As delighted as the receivers are with their little surprises, the givers are ten times more delighted. And we, the receivers of Jesus the Savior, are overwhelmed with joy on Christmas, but can you imagine the face of God, the giver of this most precious, most extravagant, most costly gift?
Perhaps we think of the Old Testament God, the stern, judgmental, even angry God who constantly dealt with his children’s disobedience and was forced to discipline them at every turn. Consider, instead, this Christmas a God who so loved his creation that he gave of himself, the Son. The adoring, sacrificing, infinitely generous God who changed tactics: instead of punishing or disciplining his children, he poured out his love, mercy, and grace. Took on flesh and lived among them. Among us. Emmanuel. Imagine his look of utter delight as his children experienced—and experience—a gift no one but he could give: forgiveness.
Good News for everyone!
You are welcome at Westview Church. Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour classes for ages preschool through adult resume January 5.