Right now I've done a quick count, and it's somewhere around sixteen weeks since last Christmas. Do you remember?
The shepherds received an angelic message, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk. 2.10-11). A great company of the heavenly host praised God, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests" (v. 14).
That message came at a very discouraging time for the Jewish people. For over 600 years they had been under foreign rule - apart from a short period under the Maccabees. Right now they were dominated by Rome. And the census around the time of Jesus' birth was, so it is believed, for the purpose of making sure all the proper taxes were being collected.
To be sure, they were all waiting for the Messiah (Christ) to come. The shepherds certainly got the point and ran into Bethlehem to "see this thing that has happened" (v. 15). After seeing this special baby, "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" (v. 20).
What's the picture thirty-three years later? What's been the future of this baby? How has the Jewish establishment received "the Saviour Christ the Lord"? How have the Roman authorities reacted?
Jesus is reported to have "taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law" (Mt. 7.29). He "went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him" (Acts 10.38), as Peter told Cornelius.
After three very full years of such ministry, the Jewish leadership has conspired to have him put to death on a Roman cross. His closest friends are disconsolate. Two of them put into words the feeling of them all, "we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel" (Lk. 24.21).
So what do we make of this "Saviour Christ the Lord" bit now? What can be said about "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to whose on whom his favour rests"? It was a nice dream - and a fine memory.
It is now the third day, and the most devastating news of all has come to light - the tomb where the body was laid is empty! "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" (Jn 20.2).
Peter and "the other disciple" (assumed to be John) run to the tomb and find that the women's announcement is indeed true - the body is gone! The "other disciple" "saw and believed" (v. 8). As yet they don't understand the resurrection (v. 9), but, for John, this is the beginning-point of faith in the risen Christ.
Mary Magdalene, tearful, stays back at the tomb. She sees someone whom she assumes to be the gardener - "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him" (v. 15).
"I have seen the Lord!"
The divine plan hasn't "come unstuck" at all - "Glory to God in the highest!" Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
"On earth peace to those on whom his favour rests!" When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two, they were to give their "Shalom!" to each home they entered, but the greeting wouldn't always "stick" - the offered peace wouldn't always be received (Mt. 10.11-15). God's favour is offered to all - he is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3.9).
Glory to God in the highest! Here's news that transforms our life! Here's news that must be shared with others - news with the potential to change the whole world! Glory to God in the highest! Christ is risen!
Earthquake shakes the holy city -
"It is finished!' was his cry.
Dying hopes and crumpled spirits
watched to see their Master die.
Glory! Glory in the highest!
Christ is risen from the dead,
over death and sin victorious!
Glory in the highest heaven!
See! The garden tomb is empty
where his body had been laid!
Now the Saviour comes to greet us,
lead us on in love and grace.
Glory! Glory in the highest!
Christ is risen from the tomb,
humbled once, now see him glorious,
mighty victor, strong to save!
Darkness shrouds our troubled planet.
"Peace on earth" - we need some, Lord!
Dumb to sing your praise and glory,
deaf to hear your gracious call!
Christ is risen! Glory! Glory!
Sound the news of saving grace
to dispel encircling darkness
and instill his offered peace.
Back to Sermons