There has been a fanfare of ail wrapped in nuances of brokenness, sickness, heartbreak, rejection in the air. I have been thinking a lot about the nature of this season- for a lot of people, this season is not crowned with pretty dazzles, bright lights and warm filled carols; Christmas is synonymous with pain, betrayal, heartbreak, rejection, burnout, loss, sickness. It seems as though I cannot take a step without feeling the heavy burdens, noticing the silent tears and witnessing the dullness of stories untold; stories buried in sighs and hidden defeat of those around me. I have been pondering what the Good News really means for those of us who are honest enough to embrace our humanity, for those who are willing to pull back the curtain of their souls and let the obscure parts of their stories be unveiled in the Presence of Light Himself. I have been pondering how the sacred melody of the best news ever received might soothe the grieving, troubled, the crippled, the bruised and the disappointed this season.
If you don’t think this message is for you, I would challenge you to stick around because what I am about to say is for everybody- and if not for you right now, maybe later and if not , then for the person beside you who is silently praying for breakthrough.
We hear the phrase” Good News” all the time around Christmas and Easter- we recite the birth of Jesus story generically, perhaps painting it as unremarkable at times and outdated. You might be wondering or thinking “how does the birth of a baby 2000 plus years ago impact my life today? My circumstances? My sickness, my grieving, my hurt and pain, the exhaustion and burnout I am experiencing? How does the birth of Jesus change the narrative of where I am currently finding myself? ” What is this good news anyway?”
Luke 2:8-12 says
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The Good News came first to the Shepherds living in the fields nearby. Shepherds had an unsavory reputation. Jeremiah cites rabbinic sources that confirm that shepherds were dishonest, thieves at times because they rarely had supervision. They would sometimes be accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock (Wilson, 2019). Shepherds were also not allowed to fulfill a judicial role or be admitted in court as witnesses (Wilson, 2019). The job of a shepherd was anything but glorious and highly regarded (Wilson, 2019). While there is no suggestion in the text that the shepherds to whom the angels appeared were dishonest, they were certainly part of a despised class.
God chose to share His glory with simple, ordinary, unapplauded people who in many regards found home on the fringe of society. I often wonder why the first receivers of Good News were the poor the same way I wonder why the lowly in spirit, the hungry and the meek are recipients of heaven in a world that accolades the powerful and the potent, the famous and the wealthy. Perhaps Jesus, who had fellowship with the despised and the sinners knew them and wanted them to be on the front seat of the greatest story ever told. Jesus seems to, in every way , time and time again speak the language of the humble, sitting and eating with the unwanted, undervalued, the overlooked and the jilted. We can maybe all relate to feeling that way one way or another because pain does not take sides or pick favorites.
But the Good News is that the time has come- the kingdom of God has come near (Mark 1:15). The Good News is that Hope is birthed amidst brokenness and pain. The Good News is that “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine”. The Good News is that “the yoke of slavery will be broken and He will lift the heavy burden from their shoulders “. The Good News is that “a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the government will reside on his shoulders “. The Good News is that He is ” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and His reign and Peace will never end “. The Good News is that “He will rule with fairness and justice for all eternity “because of the passionate commitment of the Lord of Heavens armies (Isaiah 9:1-7).
Can I be bold enough to say that the Glory of God wraps around darkness? The Glory of God wraps around your pain and circumstances the same way the Spirit hovered over the dark, formless, empty waters at the beginning (Genesis 1:1) and the same way the Glory of God shone around the darkness of the fields the night Jesus was born?
Matthew mentions how there was no room available for Jesus to be born in so Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger. This isn’t the polished manger we see in Christmas settings. The manger was filled with animals and unpleasant smells and was no home fit for royalty. He was wrapped in simple cloths and laid in a feeding troth. The Jesus story in its historical context is a display of human fragility and divine love; it is a display of God becoming vulnerable, poor and purposefully displaced to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power but also to meet with us right there in our own. Jesus was born in the turmoil of the most cruel, tyrannical, unjust political system (Luke 3). The Good News is that Jesus was born in the mess, though He is orderly. He is born in your mess too which does not mean everything magically goes away but it means that a new narrative is now written, a stamp of glory and purpose is revealed amidst ashes.
This is for me and you– The Good News isn’t for the stable, but for the feeble minded and faint-hearted.
The promises Jesus makes (Matthew 5, Luke 6) are really for the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. The promise is for the burdened who receive rest, for the hungry who are filled, for the grieving who receive comfort and laughter, for the unnoticed and the humble who inherit the earth, for the hated and persecuted who inherit the kingdom of heaven, for the ones who do not grow weary in doing justice who reap a harvest, for the merciful who show compassion in the face of betrayal, for the poor who inherit the kingdom of heaven. The promises are for those who find themselves low, those who are bold in their sensibility of unveiling their bareness, weakness, and need. The promises are for the weak and the broken- they are for me and for you.
The presence of pain is opportune ground for the King to arrive. The birth of Jesus and its reveal to the shepherds did not make everything else going on in their world disappear- there was a sense of relief and rejoicing for they knew Jesus was a Savior. He was there to rescue them and He is here to rescue you and me again and again. God’s way of rescuing us looks a lot different than what we maybe have hoped for – they wanted a Savior who would overthrow the government but instead the government rested on His shoulders. They had hoped for a Savior who would come militarily, but instead, He fought with compassion and love. He always comes to the rescue; it is who He is and what He does. He has been doing it for a long time and He is way better at it than any of us would ever be.
My heart has been so much more awakened to the pain and ache people around me have been faced with. I have been asking the Lord how those who find themselves in harsh and dire circumstances this season might be impacted by the Good News. The answer was very simple but so powerful – Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). The very presence of Jesus in the midst of pain is the very gift of heaven to me and to you. This season has not necessarily been smooth for me. This season has been filled with questions, deconstruction, broken promises, confusion, and disappointment. In my weakness and failure to understand things, I have been filled with strong awareness, (maybe more than ever) of His goodness, His tangible, real presence. This, my friends, has been good news in my life.
To the sick, the hurt, the ones who lost all hope, to the tired and the weary, to the ones that have been wronged or have wronged, to the ones struggling with depression and anxiety, to the ones who self-harm, to the ones in need, to the ones fighting suicidal thoughts, to the ones that have lost a child or loved ones, to the ones that have been rejected, overlooked and misunderstood and the list goes on and on – the promise and certainty from Isaiah 9 is for you ” For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine “. A light has shone, and it is Immanuel, God with you.
I may not know the depth of your pain and your circumstance or dare to compare my own to yours. But what I am convinced of is that the Good News is for you reading this, regardless of where you find yourself in this season. I pray that the Good News will find you and that Light Himself will wrap around your grief and the shadows of your circumstances. He is kind and good and comes to our rescue. May you let Him be born in your heart, whether messy or polished and like the shepherds rejoice that the glory of the Lord is being revealed in the darkness!
Merry Christmas! You are loved!