Good News of Great Joy to the Glory of God: Luke 2:1-20
The Christmas story is a story filled with surprising turns everywhere, all meant to point us to realities about the coming Savior, Immanuel (“God With Us”), who would save his people from their sins.
Yet, the way he would come could not have been predicted by anyone other than God creating the story. Luke 2 is no different. By this point, an angel has come to Mary, a virgin, and told her she would give birth to the Savior of the world – the King of kings by the Holy Spirit overshadowing her so that this God-child will be called holy (Luke 1:30-35). By now, an angel has appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm this same reality to him (Matthew 1:20-21) so that Joseph, in obedience to God, would not divorce Mary for adultery but remain faithful to her and care for her.
All of this would have been a lot to take in. But, then adding to the story is that Caesar declared it was time for a census of his people, probably so that he could boast in his great reign. This meant a long journey for a pregnant virgin and her faithful husband and a hidden, unglamorous birth of the True Ruler of the world in a manger (Luke 2:1-6). While Caesar tried to prove the greatness of his kingdom, God was keeping the promise to provide a King that would reign forever who was in the line of David and would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
Meanwhile, in that same region, there were shepherds (who were often thought of outcasts of society) keeping watch over their flocks when an angel appeared to them and they were surrounded by the shining of the glory of the Lord. They must have been terrified at this surprising intrusion of God. But the angel quickly told them not 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.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Not only should they not fear, but also their fear would soon turn to rejoicing. Why? Because there was good news of great joy for all the people.
Yes, lowly, outcast shepherds, there is good news of great joy for you. God brings good news of great joy to those who feel the most outcast. How? He brings salvation from sins through a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Not only would the King of kings be born in a stable from a young virgin, but the first to hear of his coming would be the lowly shepherds. Yes, in that lowly, outcast stable was a little baby who came to save lowly outcasts from their sins. And this offer is for all people who will admit their sin and turn to the Savior who went from the cradle to the cross. And in forgiveness of our sins found in Jesus there is great joy now and forever because the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross will bring us to eternity with God forever where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) in his presence.
And, let us be clear, all of this surprising work of God leads to a people who give glory to God. And that is exactly what the angels did next. They sang:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14).
God gets the glory from the hearts of those saved by his grace because those hearts recognize this was all God’s plan. The shepherds weren’t looking for God that night. And they were like all humankind. No one seeks God (Romans 3:11). But, in sending his Son to take on human flesh, God was seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) would put their trust in the work of his Son. God sends his Son and God saves. Therefore, glory to God in the highest!
And what is the shepherds response to this good news of great joy? They go to see Jesus. They tell Joseph and Mary of what had happened. Mary hears these words and her heart continues to be amazed that the plan of God to save the world is coming to a crescendo through the little baby crying in her arms (v.19).
And as the shepherds leave, having seen what the angels told them to find, they join the angels “glorifying and praising God” for his kindness to them and to the world in the birth of his Savior (v.20).
And this has been the pattern since that little baby, the Savior of the world, came to the world. Those that see him for who he is join in giving glory to God that the good news of great joy, the good news that Jesus saves us from our sins, is for all people who will trust Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
In the story of Christmas God gets all the glory through his plan of salvation in Jesus, and all those who receive this good news and find forgiveness in Jesus are filled with great joy now that will become full joy forever in the presence of God.