For All the People
"For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
THIS WAS THE ANNOUNCEMENT the angel made to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. Even though Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, his birth brought hope and joy to all of us.
The worldwide impact of Jesus and the inclusive nature of God’s gift of redemption is seen with the visit of the Magi, wise men from the east, who came bearing gifts for the newborn king.
It reminds me of what Isaiah the prophet said of the future coming Messiah in Isaiah 49:9. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The inclusive nature of God’s redemptive reach and embrace doesn’t just reach and envelop the Gentiles. It also embraces the ones society tends to hold at arm’s length. God embraces the lowly.
God’s embrace of the humble and lowly is seen rather vividly in the story of the birth of Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was very much aware of her humble estate. The announcement of the birth of Jesus was not made to the upper crust of society. Instead, this amazing news was first delivered to lowly shepherds tending their flock at night. And of course, the surroundings of the birth of Jesus, a stable and a manger, was an early indicator of Jesus’ intent to associate with the outcast.
The association of Jesus with the disenfranchised was a common trait of his ministry. His association with the lepers and the drunkards and the tax collectors and the adulterous were common enough to have him branded by the religious elites as “a friend of sinners.”
Continuing to reflect on Caroline Cobb's article 2020 Has Felt Like Advent All Year, I am challenged to consider how wide my arms are open to those who feel left out.
She writes, “This year has also brought new awareness of racial injustice, broken systems, and wrongs against the poor and the refugee. Oh, that we would allow this awareness to lead us to repentance and truer outworking of biblical justice.”
She goes on to pray, “Oh, that it would catalyze more delight in the God who “executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry and watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” (Psalm 146:7-9)
May we step ever so boldly into this world like Jesus stepped into our world; with arms opened wide to embrace those who feel left out.
Thaddeus Williams recently wrote in a book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth this perceptive ideal of the Christian faith. “In Christ, ethnic enemies become family, oppressed and oppressors become brothers and sisters, and privileged and underprivileged become equally loved siblings under the same all-loving Father.”
I think that is not just “the Christmas spirit.” It is “the Christian spirit.”
While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around. "Fear not," said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind, "Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind."
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