God’s message by way of the angel as recorded in Luke 2 was designed to bring joy to its hearers. It was an
unto you is born… the Lord in an
lying in a manger proclaimed to
shepherds who then by an
made the message widely known that a Savior was born.
For a news report to bring joy to someone, it must be relevant to the individual; it must meet a genuine need they have, and it must offer hope. It is virtually impossible to experience joy in the absence of hope. If we are to have joy, then, we must first have hope; if we are to have lasting joy, it must be based on a hope that transcends our circumstances.
Shop – deviated part – cause and corrective action. Goal:notsimply fix the defect (if possible) but to improve the overall quality of the product line. To achieve that – necessary to determine the root cause, then identify the correct action that would prevent a reoccurrence. The same is required when dealing with people issues – in the home, in the church, in the culture: find the root cause and address it, not just the symptoms.
A. The conditions
empty cisterns – no waterv. 3
empty fields – no grassvv. 4-5
empty nurseries – no reservesv. 5
empty prospects – no scent of reliefv. 6
tried their own solutions and came up empty
empty jugs, empty fields
Let’s try an economic stimulus package – cash for clunkers – government takeover of banks, automakers – universal healthcare; it hasn’t worked yet, let’s extend it another 10 months
out of ideasANDpowerless to fix what’s wrong
still not recognizing God’s hand in their circumstances – missing the connection between physical/temporal condition and spiritual health
[W]e know that whenever any adversity happens, the causes of it are sought in the world, so that hardly any one regards the hand of him who smites. But when there is a year of sterility, we consult astrology, and think that it is owing to the influence of the stars: thus God’s judgment is overlooked.Calvin
It was a time of “national” calamity – affected the entire economy, people of all strata of society: nobles, servants, small business owners – white collar, blue collar, no collar. Those who were “doing it right” experienced hardship along with everyone else. Indebtedness, unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosure, hunger, high energy costs, uncertainty and discouragement the lot of every sort of people in every neighborhood.
B. The cause
The prophet sets the example for his people, identifying himself with them and taking their part in a public prayer to God for mercy. In so doing he identifies the cause of their present calamity:
we have sinned against you – guilty as chargedv. 7
actual wrongdoing which has incurred real guilt – whatever we say, think or do that breaks God’s laws
Let’s keep it simple: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5)AND“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) were God’s instructions to his people.
idolatry, corruption, injustice, family in-fighting, partisan politics (Babylon or Egypt?)
backslidings – turning away
seeking other sources of protection, provision, pleasure, satisfaction
self-centered desires – what do I want, what will make me happy, how can I secure my own future
failure to live up to God’s standard of righteousness
includes doing the right things but with the wrong motives or for wrong reasons
not doing what God requires of us
The situation is desperate, in fact, hopeless, if only the people and their circumstances are considered. Given their guilty standing, confession followed by repentance and throwing themselves on God’s mercy represented their only hope for relief, even though it felt like God had abandoned them.
C. The cure
act, O Lordv. 7
do something to relieve us so we don’t die
for your own name’s sake
look within Yourself, not us, for the reason to spare us
there is nothing within us worthy of sparing
we are totally dependent on your mercy
you are our hopev. 8
don’t be a stranger
we are helpless to save ourselves
we need your abiding presence for our salvation and safety
You are Immanuelv. 9
in our midst – God with us
hidden from view but still present – transcendentANDimmanent
foreshadowing of the one who would be called Immanuel –Isa. 7:14
we are your children
do not leave us
It is only in the saving mercy to be found in Christ Jesus, God with us, that we have any hope. That saving mercy is to be found in Christ Jesus is an incredible message of good news bringing great joy to lost and dying people. The reason it is good news is that saving mercy is what lost and dying people need most. It is the only source of genuine hope that reaches eternity; the cross of Christ is the only place fallen man can find reconciliation with a holy God. Understanding that God not only saves sinners, he has savedMEis cause for great joy that cannot be concealed.
D. The charge
If you are a sinner saved by the limitless grace of God, you have a charge:
Go tell the good news of great joy as the shepherds did
If we have great joy, it should be evident in word and deed.
joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive
joy that we are sinners saved by grace can be evident in how we deal with sorrow and loss
We have opportunities now to share the Gospel
the economy, the season, increased circle of social activities, times of personal loss – people are more receptive and we are in contact with more of them
Pray God will give us eyes to discern hopelessness in others
those who are truly hopeless, conscious of their own helplessness, are prime candidates for the gospel
they are the ones most in need of genuine hope