The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
client login


      The American Bible Society is one of the many Christian non-profit organizations that my mom supports. In fact, she has participated in the society’s “Bible-a-month” club for many years. Recently, she found some gospel/scripture tracts that had been published by the ABS years ago. One tract presents the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). Entitled Great Joy for All, the cover of this tract is being used with permission as the graphic for the current edition of “From Daniel’s Den.”     
      Luke recorded how fear gripped the shepherds at the appearance of the angel and the accompanying glory of the Lord that surrounded them. The angel sought to allay the fears of the shepherds by explaining that the purpose of the visit was to “bring you glad tidings/good news of great joy that will be for all people” (v. 10). The angel then elaborated on the specifics of the message with a “Who…What…When…Where…Why?” kind of approach (v. 11). Specifically, the angel announced that “Christ, the Lord” (who)…“has been born” (what)…“today” (when)…“in the city of David” (where)…to be your “Savior” (why).   
      The message of the angel was introduced with a Call to Welcome that was delivered to the shepherds as a personal invitation. The multiple usage of the pronoun “you” emphasizes the personal aspect of the message with “I bring you” (v. 10), “born to you” (v. 11), “This will be a sign to you” (and) “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger” (v. 12). To these humble, seemingly insignificant members of society, came the first public announcement of Jesus’ birth. To a group of folks who likely were tending sheep not owned by them and who were simply trying to survive until “5 o’clock on Friday” came the never-before-seen-or-heard message of hope, joy, and peace. These shepherds received the personal invitation to go to the manger, to see the Messiah, and to experience His majesty!     
      Though addressed initially to shepherds, the implication is that “whosoever will” would be welcome. The later visit by the magi confirms this reality. Regardless of socio-economic status, standing within the community, vocation, or nationality, everyone is welcome. Although viewed as outcasts or lower-ranking citizens, these shepherds received a personal invitation to go to the little town of Bethlehem…to see the long-expected Jesus…(who)… …could be found wrapped in swaddling clothes…away in a manger…where gentle Mary laid her child. There, in the presence of the Savior…Christ, the Lord…the shepherds would be welcome!
      The good news announced by the angel was characterized by “great joy” which I believe served as a Call to Worship. The third candle in the Advent wreath is often referred to as the Shepherd’s Candle. This candle is typically rose-colored or pink and represents joy…the kind of joy that a newborn baby brings.     
      Scarcely had the delivery of the divine announcement concerning the birth of Christ been completed when “a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel” and began praising and glorifying God with joyful adoration. Following a rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus presented by the heavenly host, the shepherds made haste to Bethlehem…without hesitation…without delay…without detour. Having seen the Christ-child, the shepherds responded with the same joy displayed by the heavenly host. The participles “glorifying and praising” denote continual adoration and worship. At the manger, the shepherds were welcome and they expressed joy and adoration of the Lord through their worship.  
      Presented to the shepherds as good news of great joy for all the people,” the angel’s announcement served further as a Call to Witness and underscored the global application of this call. The shepherds went to Bethlehem to “…see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (v. 15). Then, “…they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (vv. 17-18). Thus, the witness of the shepherds…the spreading of the “good news of great joy”…the good news intended “for all the people” had an impact on “all who heard.”     
      I can only imagine the impact of a few committed Christians in a local congregation who would issue a personal and genuine invitation to all people to come to church and welcome them when they arrived. I can only imagine the state-wide impact of many committed Christians in a few churches who would gather in corporate assembly to express unhindered joy and adoration for the Lord through their worship of Him. I can only imagine the national and international impact of numerous committed Christians in hundreds or even thousands of churches within a denomination who would take seriously the challenge to provide a global witness to a world…a welcome, a worship, and a witness that offers good news of great joy for all.


      Dear Heavenly Father, May I take seriously the invitation that I have received to introduce others to the child in the manger through my welcome and my worship. May I exude joy that comes from a personal relationship with Christ and share the good news of great joy with all people within my sphere of influence and others with whom I may have the opportunity to meet. Amen.