“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, November 28th
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
An old country-western song once warned mothers not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys. It’s not hard to imagine that Jewish mothers once warned their babies not to grow up to be shepherds. No Jewish mother went around bragging about, “My son, the shepherd!” First century Jewish literature ranked a shepherd among the most despised, having the most looked down upon occupation. The Mishnah (a compilation of Jewish oral law) warned men not to teach their sons to be shepherds “for their craft is the craft of robbers.” (Kidushin 4. 14) After all, shepherds were often hirelings caring for other people’s sheep; it was easy for them to steal milk, wool and sheep, while blaming the loss on thieves. Jewish law actually prohibited buying milk and wool from a shepherd because one must assume that these items were stolen.
In a culture fanatical about dividing the clean from the unclean, shepherds stood out as unclean. A shepherd’s way of life and isolation from religious ritual and ceremony rendered him ceremonially unclean. Thus, no shepherd was permitted to enter a synagogue to pray and study the Torah, or the temple to offer sacrifice. A shepherd was looked down upon as so disreputable that his testimony would not be heard in a court of law. (Joachim Jeremias, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 6) Shepherds were officially identified as “sinners”, a technical term for that class of people to be avoided. They were just the kind of people Jesus was condemned for so loving: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). The Christmas story begins with shepherds as God’s Exhibit A, God’s Proof Positive of His love for everyone, even the outcast and despised. The medium is truly the message! Good news for everyone!
I have looked into people’s eyes and seen the longing: “Oh, if only God’s good news were for me! If only I could believe that God loves and accepts me!” They dare not believe that God’s good news could include them! We live in a performance-based world where raises are calculated by how well we are doing. Grades are based on performance. Even relationships are based on performance. We might even suspect that God is playing the performance game too. We project onto God our human experience, thinking God will only love us if we are good enough, if we keep the rules!
Yet God’s good news is so clear, so simple. God’s good news is so upside down to the performance way of living. We are the ones who complicate the good news, making it into something we do for God, rather than what God has done for us.
N. T. Wright, English churchman and theologian, underscores the reality of God’s good news:
But many people today assume that Christianity is one or more of these things – a religion, a moral system, a philosophy. In other words, they assume that Christianity is about advice. But it wasn’t and isn’t. Christianity is, simply, good news. It is the news that something has happened as a result of which the world is a different place. (N. T. Wright, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good)
Here is good news that something has happened, proving God’s love for you! If we really understood God’s good news of great joy we would understand that God loves us more than He loves Himself. He sacrificed His very life for us! Good news, indeed!
- What is the difference between good news and good advice?
- In what ways do you think you might be performance-based in your relationship with God?
THE DAILY GOD HUNT: Reflect on where you found God today.