Meanwhile, the shepherds were not among the throngs of people in Bethlehem. They were so low on the totem pole of society that perhaps they weren’t even worthy of being counted in the census. No one wanted their child to grow up to be a shepherd, that is for sure.
On this night, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was incarnate, and came into the world as a little baby. This event was going to change the course of human history. An announcement of the birth was made by a multitude of the heavenly hosts, a sky filled with angels singing a heavenly song. The scene certainly was set well. What a better place to make the announcement than to all the people gathered in Bethlehem for the census. Except that’s not where the announcement was made.
The angels brought their glad tidings to the shepherds out in the field. These men were the first to hear the “good news” that God had come to be among us, that the Creator was now part of His creation. This “joy” is for all people. Even the lowly shepherds were invited to share in the joy of the Lord. In fact, they were the first ones who were invited.
Joy is for everyone. The joy of Christ is accessible to everyone. It is for the rich and poor, the young and old, the educated and the uneducated. It is for everyone. It is interesting that those who seem to have the most joy in the Lord are our children. The wonder in their eyes when they see the beauty of the church as an infant, or the warm glow of Christmas tree lights. For the little child, Christmas is not about material gain. And the church is “Jesus’ house,” not just an organization to which we belong. The children count the number of altar boys and that bring them joy. The adults count the number in the church balance sheet and argue about cost-cutting.
The joy of Christ is available to all people, but we have to approach like children in order to feel it fully. We have to set aside anger and sadness and be filled with wonder and amazement.
Going back to the Nativity story, I’ve always liked today’s verse because the angels say emphatically that the “good news of a great joy” is for “all people.” There is no one who is ineligible for that joy.
If you have not felt the joy of the Lord, know that that is not because He doesn’t want you to feel it, or because He has somehow excluded you. The joy of the Lord is there to everyone who wants to receive it. And it is found in small things, small blessings. Again, think back to the baby on Christmas—for the small child, Christmas is not a stressful even of shopping and cooking. For the little child, Christmas is about the warm glow of lights and the smell of the tree. It is not so much about getting gifts as it is about ripping up wrapping paper. Small joys add up to bigger joys. But start with small joys, taking away joy from the little things in life.
And in your spiritual life, focus on the little things like prayer, scripture reading and worship—there is joy to be found in all these things. And again, that joy eludes the “high and mighty” who do not take time to do these things. However, a simple person who has little money and no fame can take great joy from these things.
Lord, thank You for sending Christ into the world to die for our sins and lead us back to You. Help me always to take joy from this message. Help that joy guide my life. May that joy remain in me even when life is difficult. Speak Your joy to me, especially in times when I feel like the shepherds—cold, alone and afraid. Help me to know that Your joy is for all people and it can be felt at any time by anyone. Help me to experience a measure of Your joy today. May my heart be open to signs of Your joy both large and small today. Amen.
The good news of a great joy is for all people, and that includes YOU!