“Glad Tidings of Great Joy!”
“I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord.”
During the four weeks of Advent, we have been quieting ourselves and preparing for this Christmas day of extraordinary joy as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We remember the humble birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem manger and can feel hopeful anticipation of the promise of the return of Jesus. Whenever we profess the Apostle or Nicene Creeds, we proclaim Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and our Christmas celebration can reignite our belief.
In the past, when I reflected on the miracle of Christmas I usually focused on Mary’s “yes” response to God’s plan. Mary must have felt a range of emotions including profound love for ‘the new baby, excitement, confusion, joy, exhaustion, fear, wonder, and the uncertainty of the future.
Now, as an older Priest, my focus is drawn to the shepherds in the Christmas story. These steadfast workers stayed with their flock night and day always watching for danger as they searched for sources of food and water. Threats such as wild animals were ever present. The tricky aspect of threats is the constant potential of the danger and toll that anticipation takes.
Today we are living in times with many threats to our wellbeing and identity. While we most probably are not grappling with an imminent attack of a wild animal, we face threats such as those from the Covid-19 virus variants, devastating weather conditions, financial insecurity, personal safety, and civil unrest.
As the shepherds were always aware of threats, it is understandable when the angel appeared to the shepherds their first response was fear. Yet the angel reassured them by saying:
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
On this Christmas Day, we gather as a faith-filled family. We gather here, much like the shepherds, with excitement and fear, with anticipatory hope for a better tomorrow and a year of peace, with faith that will see us through this pandemic, through terminal illness, through financial setbacks, with an eagerness to grow in our faith one day at a time.
So, let us feel the joy of the promise of our Savior Jesus Christ. Let us not be afraid. Let us turn the threats we perceive over to God. Let us feel peace in our lives and in our communities. Let us feel hope for our salvation. Let us truly hear the proclamation of the multitude of the heavenly host:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”