Joy to You and MeLuke 2:8-20Theme: Rejoicing in the promise.This week’s lessons teach us that true joy is found in Christ alone.
LessonIt is interesting, isn’t it, that the Christmas story contains two extremes. On the one hand, there were the shepherds, the lowest of the low, to whom the angels appeared with the message and who responded joyfully. At the other extreme were the wise men, the most mighty of the mighty, who also responded when God revealed the birth of Christ to them by the appearance of the star. The appearance of the angels to the shepherds and the presence of the shepherds in the stable indicate that there is no one too lowly, too simple, too uneducated, or too disadvantaged to fail to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ. And at the other extreme, the presence of the wise men after a passage of time indicates that there is no one so sophisticated, no one so intellectual, no one so rich, no one so important, that he or she should miss the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ. The joy of Christmas is for everybody.
That, of course, leads to the final words of the text, which we need to stress. “Do not be afraid,” said the angel. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). I acknowledge that in the context of the story, when you have the presence of that definite article in the phrase, “all the people,” the reference probably is to all the Jewish people. That is, it is specifying a special ministry that Jesus Christ would have to Jews. It did say earlier, “He will save his people from their sins,” and so that’s the same kind of reference. Yet at the same time, when we take the story as a whole, and even more so when we examine it in the light of its later unfolding in the Gospels, it is quite evident that the salvation that Jesus Christ brought was not just for Jewish people, but it was for Gentiles, too.
You see it in the story, as I said, because just a little further on in this very same chapter of Luke, when Mary and Joseph bring the newborn child up to Jerusalem to present him for purification in the temple, according to the instructions that are given in Exodus 13, Simeon – aged Simeon – appears. He had been looking for the coming of the Christ. God had spoken to him, saying that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. And coming up at that moment, he recognized that One in the infant Jesus. He took Jesus up in his arms, he blessed him, and then he prayed. He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” – no definite article there – “all people.” And then lest we miss it, he spells it out–”a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
In the same way, we come to the end of the story, and we find that the Gospel is for everybody because at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, after Jesus has died, after he has been raised from the dead, when he’s with his disciples in those forty days before his ascension into heaven, he gives them what we call “The Great Commission.” And what he says to them is this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). That includes all the people at the beginning and all the nations at the end, because this great Gospel is for everybody. It is for me, and it is for you – if you will have it – in Jesus Christ.
Study Questions

What is significant about the appearing of the angels to the shepherds and the presence of the shepherds in the stable?
What biblical passages teach us that the Gospel is for everyone?

Further StudyIn today’s lesson we discovered that Mary and Joseph were required by Jewish law to observe certain rituals concerning the birth of Jesus because he was their firstborn son. Learn about these laws in the following passages: Ex. 13:1-16; Lev. 12:1-8.

Study Questions
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