“Glad tidings of great joy” – we hear those words every year, and it can be tempting to let them roll off of us. Or maybe to think that they are talking about generic holiday cheer: days off from school and work — that’s “glad tidings of great joy.” Or perhaps you think of all the Christmas lights, and good food and gifts and family – all the trappings. But make no mistake. We decorate and rest and gather and feast with friends and family because the glad tidings of great joy are far more than that.
Have you ever waited for something for a long time? Have you waited for a new job? Have you waited for a spouse? Have you waited for a child? Perhaps you know that feeling of finally hearing the good news of its arrival. Or perhaps you are still waiting.
The angel’s message was centuries old, thousands of years old. People had been waiting for generations, passing on the hope to their children and grand children and going to their graves still clinging to the promise, still waiting. In a garden long ago, God promised a young brokenhearted couple that a descendant of theirs would one day reverse the curse of sin and death. And then began the wait: children were born and died, families and nations grew, and rose and fell. But the promise was repeated again and again, and often to the childless and barren, to those who knew what it was to wait and long.
The genealogies, the lists of names in the Bible, those are lists of the people that God remembered. They are lists of promises kept. Children born, a line of promise preserved. And so the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of that great promise, but it is also the great and final “yes” to all of God’s promises. The birth of Jesus is the sure word that all things will be put right, that death will be swallowed up forever, and no good thing will be lacking.
Do you hear that? Every longing heart, every disappointment, every regret will be answered in Jesus and in His Kingdom, in this life and in the life to come. We decorate because God has come in the flesh, and He is putting all things right. We celebrate and sing and feast because God has kept His promises and He will withhold no good thing from His people, in this life and in the life to come. He will personally fill every empty hand and every longing heart to overflowing.
Glad tidings of great joy indeed.