Beloved brothers and sister in Christ, as we enter the last month of this year, the month of December, one thing we notice all around the world is that the whole world prepares to celebrate a feast. A great feast at that! We notice this in the making and sending of cards, the decorations of houses and public places, exchange of gifts and lots more. The great feast that the whole world prepares to celebrate this month, irrespective of their religion and culture, is Christmas – the birth of the Saviour of the world. A lot is on at this point but we must not lose the essence of the season.
We have heard many times, people saying Jesus is the reason for the season. That is true. Because Christmas “is the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind” (Pope Paul VI). This encounter between God and mankind is the birth of Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. And it brings great joy. That is why when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, he said: “Be not afraid; for, behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11).
The angels spelled out the reason for joy in their message to the shepherd – “…for to you is born…a saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” The one who is born is the savior who has come to save humanity’s fallen state. He has come to save us from eternal damnation and he is the expected Christ, the Messiah. This is the key of the tidings of great joy that the angels announced. It is news of joy for all people.
Good tidings are what we always long for. We want to hear news of success in our studies, our business, in our projects and good news about our wellbeing. But these are transients and last only for a time. God alone offers enduring "good news" of a unique nature — always good to everyone who hears it. The good tidings of Christmas concerns the eternal remedy for the sin which has separated man from God, brought the horror of evil and suffering plaguing man ever since his rebellion in the Garden of Eden, and ultimately brings eternal doom (Gen. 2). The sin of man in the Garden of Eden destroyed the pristine nature of man, thereby leaving man in need of redemption. This redemption came at the birth of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. His birth marks the dawn of salvation.
The evangelist Luke says the angels that gave the shepherds the message of the good tidings of the birth of Christ were “suddenly surrounded by many more heavenly spirits, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth for God is blessing humankind’” (Lk. 2:13-14). The angels rejoiced for there was great joy in heaven. The joy is that the redemption of man has come; man is once again given the opportunity and blessed to share in the life of God. God has restored man back to his pristine nature. This is a message of good tidings for us and it is a blessing. We are blessed with the Son of God, the Saviour.
He continues to announce good tidings of great joy to us throughout his public ministry. As he begins his ministry in Lk. 4:18-19, Jesus announces a message of joy, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord.” This is the good news of the mission of Jesus. His mission is to restore all that has been lost through sin and bring joy to the world.
He will later in John 10:10, say, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” This implies that his coming is to give life to the dead situation we find ourselves because of sin. Thus, it is not only life here on earth he speaks about, but life with God in eternity. So, his coming brings new life to us, here on earth as we are accounted as sons and daughters of God; and assures us of life in heaven. This brings such a great joy to us at this season of Christmas.
As we prepare and celebrate Christmas, let us not forget the one we are celebrating (Christ) and the reason we are celebrating. Let our celebrations be one that shows gratitude to God for the blessing of his Son who has come to give us joy and life. May the joy of this season endure forever in our homes through Christ our Lord. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year in advance.
Alfred Adewale Martins Archbishop of Lagos
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