Luke 2:10, from today’s Gospel reading: 'But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”'
This was the message of the angel to the shepherds outside Bethlehem some two thousand years ago and it is a message which is still important for each one of us today.
It is a message that God has acted in the world, that he has sent his Son to be our Saviour — and this was not because of anything that we have done, but because of God’s love for us. The angels' words of praise make this clear: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”
As Paul commented in his letter to Titus: 'But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.' (NRSV Tit 3:4–5)
However, such a gift demands a response. Remember the reaction of the shepherds. 'When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.' (NRSV Lk 2:16)
We must follow their example, we too must come to Jesus and worship him and accept the gift of love which he brings from God for us.
Our initial response, as Paul reminded us, was at our baptism through the water of rebirth, but each week we have the opportunity to share with the Church in worshipping him, and especially in the Eucharist, the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. And as we celebrate once more the birth of our Saviour it is in this great sacrament of thanksgiving and communion that we make our response to the love of God made manifest for us in Bethlehem.
And there is food for thought, as it were, in remembering that it is in this sacrament, in which we receive the bread which was broken for us by Jesus himself, that we celebrate today the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (= House of Bread) where his mother laid him in a manger, in the animals’ feed-box.
Our celebration, however, should not end with our worship, no matter how important that is and how much it is neglected by many these days. Let’s look again at the actions of the shepherds when they visited the stable in Bethlehem. 'When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them… The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.' (NRSV Lk 2:15-20)
What the shepherds had seen and heard was too wonderful to keep to themselves. They had to tell others the good news of what God had done for his people.
Today the same burning enthusiasm to tell others about Jesus should be found in the lives of each one of us with the result that we will be anxious by our words and actions to show forth God’s love for the world. When you watch the news on the Telly and its recital of greed and hate, inhumanity and lies it is obvious that the need to proclaim the good news of the Gospel is as urgent now as it has ever been.
Sometimes it is hard to be positive about the Christmas message in the face of the force of commercialism and consumerism. Even more so when you find that the season is being proclaimed with very little or no mention of Jesus at all. In these circumstances our vision of these wonderful events may have become clouded and we don’t see Christ so clearly now.
Let us therefore pray to God, as we celebrate the coming of his Son as Mary’s baby in Bethlehem, that we may receive him now in this Eucharist and that he will transform our lives.
Let us pray that we may be granted a clear vision of him now, that his love will ﬁll our lives and that we will be enabled to bear joyful witness to him, wherever we may be.
'...to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.'