Rev’d Jonathan Gale
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
When we were children and one of our parents came up to us and said, “I have good news!” we immediately presumed that whatever it was, this good news would be something specifically for our personal benefit.
We all know the story:
• Babies can’t help themselves so they yell loudly and harness the help of someone who can help.
• Young children are not much better; they just grow to realise that screaming doesn’t do it, but the focus is the same: I work towards benefitting me.
• This is why St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, after speaking of selfless love, then goes on to reflect how he became an adult and put way childish things.
The angel says to the gathered shepherds, ‘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.
The angel is announcing the Gospel – the Good News
The Gospel is in many ways all we need. It is what we are required to live out and it is what we are required to share.
The Gospel was what Maori needed 200 years ago and of course we’re here today to celebrate just that: Ruatara and Samuel Marsden’s partnership in bringing the Gospel to New Zealand.
The Gospel is what St Peter’s needs today.
Notice that when the angels appeared the shepherds are quite naturally frightened. But I would put it to you that any encounter with God today, 2000 years after the appearance of those angels near Bethlehem, is just as frightening, and for one major reason. We know very well that when Jesus left this earth he commissioned us to preach the Gospel, and in any meeting with him now he would want to know how we had fared. It is all too obvious that Christians right now are not doing too well.
We’re not doing well for one reason, essentially. We are not sharing the Good News as we should. We have lost the spark. We have domesticated our faith and made it subject to social respectability.
We are afraid; some of us might even be ashamed of the Gospel. The words of the angels, then, are for us today: Do not be afraid
I think one of the things we forget is that what we have to share is a matter of great joy. The angles speak of good news of great joy
The other thing we are is very selective about who we speak to of our faith. However the angels said that the Gospel was for all the people
We’ve probably heard the Jordan River used as an illustration of ‘giving out’. The Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee and out and on towards the Red Sea. The waters of Galilee are fresh, teeming with life. Galilee shares what it has.
Not so the Red Sea. It has no outlet and so what it has dissipates under the glare of the sun leaving huge amounts of saltiness behind. The Red Sea is full of chemicals. It is lifeless. It does not share what it has.
Exactly the same applies to us. When we share the Good News without fear to all people irrespective of their social, intellectual or economic status, we are brought alive in Christ.
The angels tell us that Jesus is born in the city of David. The Good News comes from the place the prophets predicted it would. It is authentic. It does not have shonky origins. We can trust it: that it is in fact what the world needs and that it really is good.
The Good News is about a Saviour. Don’t think that we do not need saving. We need saving more so than ever today, from our spiritual slackness, from our sinful lifestyles, from our plain indifference to God.
And finally this Good news is bound up in Jesus who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Jesus has come to usher in a Kingdom – the kingdom of God. The Good news is about far more than our individual salvation.
Let us, each one of us, go from this beautiful and historic bay with a determination to share the Good News with everyone we know.
God bless you.