On the night Jesus—the Son of God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us, the long-awaited Messiah—was born, Luke’s gospel tells us an angel appeared in the brilliant light of the glory of the Lord to shepherds to herald Christ’s appearing. It’s the most unexpected scene. In a moment, the dark of night blanketing the shepherds’ field is pierced by the glory of the Lord, the sweetly hanging silence broken by the angelic announcement: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” While unexpected, the abruptness of the scene fits the moment. The advent of Jesus is history-altering. It changes everything. For unto a people needing saving the Savior has been born. Into a broken world needing mending the King has come. Suddenly, the Light of hope erupts into the dark of our night. This is indeed good news!
But this is not simply good news in the abstract or in theory. This is not good news that is devoid of emotion. Nor is it good news contingent upon emotion as if it is only good news as long as it is accompanied by feeing joy. This is good news that brings with it great joy. It is good news when my car insurance premium decreases. But that good news does not bring with it great, exceeding, abundant, overflowing joy. The good news that our Savior King is here produces great joy.
If you are like me, upon hearing the announcement of the gospel, I too infrequently feel great joy. To be sure and to clarify again, there is a vast difference between good news contingent upon a joyful feeling and good news generating joy. In our already-not-yet redeemed condition, we will not always feel the joy of the gospel. It is equally true, however, that in our already-not-yet redeemed condition, we will taste and know the great joy of the gospel. And I long to taste and know it more than I do. I want to be moved and compelled and stirred by the great joy of the gospel.
In order to feel the great joy of the gospel, we must first know the goodness of its news. The news that King Jesus has come is not good for all those who desire to retain self-sovereignty. The news that Jesus has come as Savior is not good for those who refuse to deny their self-sufficiency. And news that is perceived to lack goodness will always lack joy. But for those who are well acquainted with their inadequacy and insufficiency, for those who know the broken that lies inside and outside themselves, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds is exceedingly good news of exceedingly great joy.
May the Lord forbid our hearts to persist in stubborn commitment to self and free us to know the goodness of the news that Jesus has come to redeem what we have lost, restore what we have broken, purchase what we could not afford and offer what we could not earn. May we feel the great joy of the good news this Christmas—not because we are in search of an emotional experience, not because we want our emotions to authenticate the goodness of the gospel, but because we know just how good the good news is.