Sunday 27th December 2020

Luke Chapter 2: 8-20

Have you heard the news?

Imagine something with me: Imagine the reaction of some of those living or staying in Bethlehem at the time when Jesus was born. The Gospel of Luke tells us, ‘They [the shepherds] spread the word concerning what had been told them [by the angel] about the child [the Baby Jesus], and all who heard it were amazed…’ (Luke 2:17-18).

‘All who heard it were amazed…’ Perhaps the story of one who was amazed might go something like this…

“Have you heard the news? The extraordinary news? The word on the street is that the Messiah has been born, right here, right now, in our town, in Bethlehem. And there’s talk too of angelic messengers in the sky! That’s what I’ve been told, that’s the big news, actually, it doesn’t get any bigger – the Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised King, God’s promised Deliverer, the One the prophets foretold, come at last to set us free…

Do I believe it? Do I believe this news? I think so…maybe…But my neighbour Joshua who told me seemed certain. Heard it from a local shepherd he said, one of the shepherds from the hillside…Apparently, they came to town last night claiming to have seen angels and the Child for themselves and by all accounts those shepherds were beside themselves with excitement! And that’s not like them, they are usually a dour bunch at best, but apparently not last night…And the way Joshua talked as he told me the story, you’d have thought he’d been there himself, in the stable, beside the manger! And there’s something else, something I can’t completely explain, and it’s this: The more I think over all Joshua said, the more I think about those Bethlehem shepherds, what they claimed to have experienced and claimed to have seen, and the more I think about the special Baby and what it all might mean, the more I feel something welling up inside me, it’s like an overwhelming desire for me to spread the news as well, to tell someone, to keep passing this news on, to spread the word…

Because if it’s all true this isn’t something to keep to myself, this is a message for everybody, this is a message to share, this is good news of great joy for all the people. But before I say anymore, there’s something I have to do, something those joyful shepherds did, and that is to go see for myself. So, I’m going now to see this Child with my own eyes, the Baby lying there in a manger, and then I shall go and tell everyone who will listen – He’s here, the Messiah, the Christ is here, and perhaps nothing will ever be the same again…”

“Have you heard the news?”, the man from Bethlehem asked, ”The news of the promised Messiah?” That’s not just a good question, it’s a great question; a great question for Bethlehem all those years ago and a great question for Donaghadee today…But it’s also a question that begins with each one of us, you and me, for there is no point in asking someone else until we have asked ourselves – so we need to start with – ”Have we heard the news?” and what difference does that news make to me and what difference does that make to you? Six weeks in this latest lockdown can seem a daunting prospect, but one very good thing lockdown might just give us is time, time at home to pray and to read our Bible. Time to turn the pages of your Bible slowly and to savour, ponder, each sentence, each phrase, each word, because in doing so, we remind ourselves of that good news…Good news we’ve focused on these past weeks:

‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…’ (Isaiah 9:2)

Why not unpack that a little…

  • ‘The people’ – that’s us…
  • ‘Walking in darkness’ – plenty of that around…
  • ‘Have seen a great light’…

Ponder what exactly that might mean for you…

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…’ (Isaiah 9:6)

  • This child is God’s gift to you…
  • Something ‘given’…
  • Something, someone, to be received

Again, what does that mean for you?

There are so many great and wonderful Advent passages to read and reread:

  • A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…’Isaiah 11:1
  • ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…’ Isaiah 35:4
  • ‘He will stand and shepherd his flock…’ Micah 5:4
  • ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you…’ Luke 2:11

Let me encourage you, take time in these next weeks to hear the good news once more, the extraordinary news, the Messiah, your Saviour, was born in Bethlehem. The Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised King, God’s promised Deliverer, the One the prophets foretold, come to set us free. The One who came, walked this earth, gave us a way to live, died to save us from our sins and is now gloriously risen and at work in our lives and in this restless world. Take your time, turn the pages of your Bible slowly…

The angels proclaimed the news on that glorious night, the shepherds heard and took in the news, then hurried to Bethlehem to see the Baby and having done so, shared the news and all who heard it were amazed…And today, the wonderful news of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Immanuel God with us, has been shared down the generations and across the globe and for us all the way to beautiful Donaghadee.

Have we heard the news? Yes, we have and may we continue to be amazed, may we never lose our sense of wonder at the best news there is, of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, and the difference He makes…With Jesus in your life and mine, nothing will ever be the same again…

Let’s pray together:

Loving Heavenly Father,

You have given to us and to all the world good news in Christ, good news to share. Help us, each one, to hear that good news afresh and take it to our hearts, and by Your Spirit at work in our lives help us to share all Christ has done for us, so that others in turn may celebrate all He will do for them.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.