January 23, 2012

Good News for All People

Originally published in the Union Springs Herald on December 28, 2011.

Our Christmas celebrations have come to an end once again. Nevertheless, the many truths of Christmas endure all year long. One of those truths is always stunning to me. In fact, it may be nothing short of miraculous. What is this enduring truth? It is simply this: the good news of Christmas is good news for all people. No matter who you are, where you've been, or what you've done. The good news of the Savior's birth is for you.

Consider the story of the shepherds in Luke's account of Jesus' birth. Luke tells us that angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field near Bethlehem. In those days, shepherds were considered second class citizens. They lived on the margins of society. They often lived and slept outdoors, because they couldn't leave their sheep unattended. Shepherds in the ancient world weren't even allowed to testify in court, because they were prejudicially considered untrustworthy.

When God decided to announce the birth of his son, he didn't send his messengers to the capital city or the governor's house or the king's palace. Instead, he chose to announce the good news of the birth of Jesus to the people everyone else considered to be less than human and unimportant. Why does Luke include this detail? It's because he wants us to know that the good news of Jesus' birth is for everyone, even poor, outcast shepherds.

Consider also the story of the magi in Matthew's account of Jesus' birth. The magi were foreigners from the east who came to honor Jesus. In today's world, we would probably call them immigrants. They traveled from a far off place to give gifts to Jesus. Why does Matthew include this story about foreigners coming to worship the little Jewish king? He wants every reader to understand that this king has come for everyone. No single race or nationality has a monopoly on Jesus. He comes for everyone, no one is excluded based on where they are from.

It's also worth observing that the magi appear to have been wealthy, since they gave gold to Jesus as a gift. This is quite a contrast to the poor shepherds in Luke's gospel who had only their adoration to offer. This is a helpful reminder that Jesus welcomes all people to himself. Whether rich or poor, immigrant or local, the good news of Christmas is for everyone.

Perhaps there has been a time in your life when you were made to feel marginalized or second class. Perhaps you've been concerned that you have nothing of value to offer to Christ. You need to know that the ground is level around the Bethlehem manger. All who come to Christ in faith are welcomed by him. Will you come?
_____

1 comment:

ἐκκλησία said...

Not trying to be provocative here Matt, but the Gospel is "folly to those who are perishing" [1 Cor 1:18], and indeed it is veiled to those same people [2 Cor 4:3].

As [2 Cor 2:15-16] says "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life."

This is obviously (and plainly) part of the rock of 'stumbling' and rock of 'offence' part of the Gospel, but still we should seek to understand it. The Gospel is not 'actually' good news for all people. At most it is only 'potentially' good news for all people. At least, this seems to be what the Gospel teaches (reading those quotes above plainly).