Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2: 10-11 (NKJV) We all know what the world is like. It can be cold and unforgiving. It can be harsh and unloving. For sure there are moments of happiness but they seem to come and go all too quickly. True peace in life is what is so often missing. The statistics bear this out. We are heavily medicated, abuse drugs and alcohol, and are increasingly found cut off and separated. The government is completely dysfunctional. We are no longer in the top ten of educating our children. The country no longer produces anything. We want so desperately to believe that there is a God but when we look to organized religion we find very little that is redeemable. We see television hucksters stealing money from the people they claim to love. We see smiling snake oil salesmen in thousand dollar suits telling us everything is going to be OK and we know that doesn't feel right. We see our neighbors judging people every day, like with the Duck Dynasty story, and wonder why we would ever want to be a part of that. I understand because I was once there too. Yet despite this world and where this writing finds you, Christmas always springs hope eternal and God has a message for you this Christmas. It is a good message. It is good tidings, which is another word for news. This good news contains great joy. Can we get our heads around that word today? God brings joy. Not happiness which is usually conditional and always fleeting. Joy. Our happiness is usually based upon some external condition being met: "I'll be happy when I graduate." "I'll be happy when I get married." "I'll be happy when I get this job." Yet all we do is move the goal posts when our condition is met. We live in a society where we can never get enough. Thus we barely get to enjoy our happiness before we set up another condition to be met. We graduated but now we must find a job. We got married but if only we could change him. We got that job but could really use a promotion. Then as the songwriter says, one day we find ten years have got behind us. We mourn the passing of time as well because our dreams of who we might be were not realized. Happiness remains a distant goal that seems far too difficult to achieve or hold onto. And then we hear the clock start to tick... God does not promise you happiness today - He promises you joy! We find our joy in who God is, not who we are. Because God never changes and His promises never fail. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The same God that people turned to a thousand years ago is the same God available for you today. He does not belong to any political party. He does not belong to any race. He has stated in His Word that His desire is for you to come home, like the story of the prodigal son you might remember from your youth. These good tidings of great joy are for all people. Do not pay attention to people claiming the mantle of Christ and not behaving in a Christlike manner. God loves you and always will. These two simple verses are from the Gospel of Luke and show that God chose to use shepherds to proclaim the news of the birth of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Shepherds were the lowliest profession during this time. They were usually the most unskilled and lowest paid people. They were looked down upon from the religions of their day because they could not keep the Sabbath. God could have chosen anyone to herald the coming of His Son. He could have used princes and kings. He could have used rulers and aristocracy. He could have used the religious leaders of the day. He chose shepherds. He chose them because His Son did not belong to anyone. His Son did not belong to the religiosity of the day anymore than He belongs to the religiosity of today. Jesus did not belong to the ruling class or the elite. God uses the unlearned to shame the wise. Jesus did not come just for the rich. He did not just come for the ruling class. He came for the shepherds. He came for me and God's message to you today is that He came for you. For there is born to you this day a Savior! In the city of David, this day a Savior is born unto you! He is not the get rich quick scheme you see misrepresented on Christian television. He is the Savior! This is of course where the message can get a little difficult for us as people. The obvious implication then is that we need to be saved. That can be difficult for a prideful people. It can be difficult to admit in a world that espouses brash independence that we might need anything, let alone God. But we do, don't we? We need His joy to overcome the weariness of this world. We need His peace to overcome the chaos of this world. Most importantly, we need His forgiveness to transcend this world and enjoy life eternal. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3: 16 (NKJV) Perishing we are destined for. Even the world admits as much. They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. While death in this life is certain, that does not mean our journey ends. There is more beyond this life and deep down you know it. You feel it. But there is a problem. Heck, we wouldn't need a Savior if there wasn't a problem! That problem is sin. Sin is what separates us from God. The world convinces us to measure ourselves against other humans and by that measurement, we all seem fine. When we measure ourselves up against a holy God however, we will indeed find that we fall short of the mark. We will find ourselves prideful and arrogant. We will find ourselves lustful and covetous. We will find ourselves lacking. Here are more good tidings of great joy though. These things are usually the very things about us that lead to so much grief and heartache in our life if we were to be honest. These are the very things that block our joy and create our drama. But wait! There's more! These are the very things God sent His Son into this world to save us from! This is why He is the Savior, born this day in the City of David! You are His precious child beloved and He is waiting for you to turn from the path you are on in this world and turn back to Him. He is waiting with open arms and forgiveness is guaranteed. When you are opening your presents this year remember that God has a gift for you too. It is good tidings of great joy! His gift is His Son, Savior of the world. I pray you accept this gift and begin to live an everlasting life. In Jesus name. Rev. Anthony.