Good News of Great Joy: Introduction

Part 1 of 6

“And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “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.”

The announcement of the birth of Jesus to shepherds was an announcement of great joy. The long-awaited Savior had come. This was not a day of fear. This was not a day for grieving and sadness but a day of joy. The savior had finally come.

Was there a reason for fear? We’ll the immediate circumstance of these shepherds would say yes. The shepherds were out in the fields in the darkness of night and all of a sudden, a glowing man appears. That would be enough to strike fear in the strongest of hearts. But once you realize what is standing before, your mind must begin to race. When an angel appears shining with the glory of the Lord, who knows what to expect next. Are they coming in judgment? Are you dead and they are coming to escort you to your eternal destiny? Why is this happening? They probably had the same reaction as Mary when Gabriel visited her. “She was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Mary and the shepherds did not know that the fullness of time had come. She was unaware that this time was sacred to the Lord her God. It was not a time to mourn or weep or to be afraid. It was a time to celebrate. It was a time of joy. The Prince of Peace had come. The embodiment of the joy of the Lord had stepped into the world.
These ideas of joy and peace were not new concepts at the time of the birth of Christ. The Old Testament is full of calls to joy. The Psalms for instance repeatedly call for rejoicing in and unto the Lord. Joy because of what God has done was not a new announcement from the angels, but a call to rekindle the joy that should have been in the hearts of God’s people from the beginning.

One of the more memorable calls to joy in the Old Testament is found in the book of Nehemiah. I realize that Nehemiah is not a typical advent text, which is unfortunate because there are many parallels. The joy that would enter the hearts of the shepherds on that night and the people in Nehemiah’s day was the same joy that has entered the hearts of God’s children since he told Adam and Eve that the offspring of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. Let’s read Nehemiah 8:9-10 and let us consider four questions about joy.