by Tristan Clark
GWINN, MI – “Do not be afraid,” the angel had told them, that fateful night in the fields. But how could they not fear; those shepherds whose peaceful evening had just erupted in a blazing fury of light and song? After all, it was only natural for their knees to quake and their heads to bow in the presence of the divine. Beyond the initial shock of the heavenly revelation, consider the words themselves, pouring forth from the lips of an angelic choir: “Good news of great joy” and “peace on earth!”
Such acclamations are sweet to the ear, but what foreign thoughts and lofty dreams those phrases may have seemed to the bedraggled shepherds. They were poor and ostracized, Rome oppressed their people, the religious leaders—charged by God to teach, intercede, and care for the people—placed burdens on them they couldn’t bear (even as those same leaders fought tooth-and-nail amongst themselves). And what of God? His glory had left, and He had not spoken through a prophet for some 400 years…
Much like today, the world was at war, life was hard, and God seemed distant.
Perhaps as they quested toward Bethlehem the fear of disappointment knocked on the door of their hearts. Could the prophecies finally be coming true? Was the Redemption of Israel at hand? Really?
So many false messiahs had already come and gone. “A hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and at times it feels safer to be a cynic. Still, the message had come straight from heaven. And lo…having arrived and turned their eyes from the faithful young mother, and her husband, Joseph, they found that the manger was not empty. In it lay the promised Child. There was Jesus.
In the days that followed the birth of the Son of God, others shared in the shepherds’ wonder and joy.
Simeon, a righteous and devout man, aged though he was, had banked on God’s promise that He would see the LORD’s Christ, and the day came when his wizened, old hands held the One he’d long hoped to meet.
Likewise, Anna, a prophetess and widow who spent her days and nights in prayer and fasting in the temple of God, laid eyes upon the Lord. He was a baby, and she was old, but her hopes were fulfilled before her dying day. Like many of us, Simeon and Anna waited, and waited, and waited, as the days which they faithfully hoped for seemed so far away. But God was faithful, and their hopes were not disappointed.
The boy grew, and, over time, the mercy of God was revealed in His works of compassion. God’s holiness was made manifest in His life and teaching. The power of God was at work in His miracles. And, one day, the love of God dripped from His broken, pierced body. But that day was not the last day. No…He rose.
Jesus had prophesied his own death, burial, and resurrection, and Jesus made good on His word.
Brothers and sisters, He’ll do it again.
His words did not disappoint Him, and His promise will not disappoint us.
The world may rage, and bitter winds may bite, but the hearths of our hearts ought to blaze with the light of hope and expectation. The same Jesus who shepherds welcomed, Simeon blessed, and Anna praised, is coming back to make all things right. Our Joy is rooted in a hope that will not disappoint. Our hearts may groan, but our prayers are heard. And this is the Christian’s joy at Christmas:
He is coming.
He IS coming.
HE IS COMING.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tristan Clark is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Gwinn, Michigan. He and his beautiful wife, Jodi, love Jesus because He first loved them. They have been married for 10 years and have five wild children, and it's all of God's grace.