On Christmas eve, sometime after 11pm, my ten-year-old son will take the podium at Bethlehem and read this:
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 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:8-14
Pastor Chuck, full of his usual exuberance, instructed my Daniel to read that passage with life and energy and joy! “The glory of the Lord shone around them!” With each reader who was proclaiming good news for us, Chuck kept coming back to joy – we should ‘rejoice exceedingly’ (Matthew 2:10) at this news!
I love this type of instruction, because it is not just for the sake of the audience having an entertaining evening. This really is good news! Proclaim! Rejoice!
These are the building blocks that lead to authentic expressions of confidence in God during the hardest of times.
If this story of the coming of God himself is simply a routine, boring, obligatory, ‘nice’ annual program put on for the children and their grandparents, then what will people have to hang on to when the hurricane winds of suffering and sorrow show up?
Pastors, help your people rejoice! This is the story of God conquering sin and death. The God-man, the central actor in the central act of all history, has arrived. The one the prophets foretold. The one who would heal every disease (Matthew 4:23-24), tell a paralytic to walk, instruct a blind man to wash, call a dead man to come forth! The one who would rise from the dead!
He is the Lion of Judah:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5
He is the one who conquers every sorrow and wipes away every tear:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4
This is the story of the God who will help us through every trial, will supply every need, and will work all things together for good. No disability, no disease, no calamity can ever separate those he has called from their God.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
From the hymn, It Is Well with my Soul, by Horatio Gates Spafford
Thank you, Pastor Chuck, for taking every opportunity, even a rehearsal, to remind us to REJOICE!