Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Sermon: Luke 2: 10 Good News of Great Joy

These days we seem to be bombarded by non-stop news. Just think for a moment - BBC1 and UTV each have a morning breakfast news programme, mid-morning updates, lunchtime news, news from 6pm-7pm, then more from 10pm onwards. You can hear the headlines every hour on the hour with most radio stations. Then there are the 24 news channels, and the news websites, constantly updated with new news.

We’re coming into the time of year when we get the review of the year, as programmes and papers look back at 2014. There are reminders of the news headlines we’ve lived through (and probably forgotten). News that is constantly changing brings many different events to our mind, for at least a moment, before something else takes its place in the headlines.

There’s lots of news around, but have you ever noticed that it’s mostly bad news? The Glasgow bin lorry tragedy; continuing fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other places. The spread of Ebola in West Africa. The aeroplanes, one of which went missing, the other shot down out of the sky over Ukraine. The celebrity sex abuse cases. And on and on it goes. Bad news after bad news.

With the advances in technology, we seem to be catapulted from one crime scene to the next, able to follow the events in a Sydney coffee shop hostage situation as they happen. The news keeps coming. The bad news keeps coming.

And that’s before we consider the local news, things happening in families and among friends and neighbours. When we hear of something bad having happened, and so often, we become overwhelmed by the flood of bad news stories. Where can we turn to find some relief? We might find ourselves saying with David in Psalm 4: ‘There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.’

David realises that we need the light of the Lord to see good. We need to know him to hear some good news. And that’s what the angels announced in the sky near Bethlehem on this very night. He says: ‘I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.’ (Luke 2: 10) Here is some good news - and it’s not just for the shepherds on the hillside that night. It’s not just for those who met the shepherds as they dashed into town. It’s for us as well. It’s for ‘all the people’. But what is it? What is the good news?

‘To you is born this day...’ Just this afternoon, we heard word from Scotland of the birth of a friend’s baby. A Christmas Eve baby. We’re looking forward to meeting him in due course. Babies being born are causes of joy and happiness, but the angel goes on. You see, this is no ordinary baby. ‘To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah the Lord.’

So much of the bad news we hear is because of human sin. Pride, jealousy, coveting, selfishness is the driving factor for many of the headlines we see and hear. Sin drives us to want, to keep, to fight, to increase at all costs. But behind the obvious sins of greed and murder, we live in a sin-saturated culture. Every word, thought and deed is produced by a sinful heart. Every part of us is twisted by sin, the effects of the fall, the outworking of Adam and Eve’s original sin.

It’s inevitable that a fallen world finds itself with ‘natural’ disasters, devastating illnesses, freak accidents, as well as the wars and rumours of wars. But in this world of bad news, the good news rings out. Christ the Saviour is here. The one who comes to put right the things that are wrong; the one who suffers in our place to take away our sins; the one who gives up his heaven to save us from hell.

This is good news to sing about - just like the angels did. This is good news to share with all we meet - just as the shepherds did. This is good news to have and to hold on to - because it is for all the people.

I don’t know what your year has been like. I don’t know what tomorrow may hold. Even as the cycle of bad news continues, even as things seem to be getting worse, the good news is that Jesus loved us so much that he came to be with us, and to save us, so that we can be with him. Forever. Alleluia! What a Saviour!

This sermon was preached at the Christmas Eve Communion in Aghavea Parish Church on Wednesday 24th December 2014.

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