Good news for every person, anywhere
“How do you mend a broken world?
Give it a gift it could never earn
Pour out a love that it don't deserve
Send it a Son and a Savior.”1
In a few short weeks, Christmas will be here. We’ll have another opportunity to ponder all that the occasion encompasses—a surefire way of keeping or getting one’s bearings back in a season of chaos and disorientation. The Prince of Peace has something to offer everyone who is open to receiving all that He has made available. Not only His presence, but His help in times of trouble, even—and especially—when we think we don’t deserve it.
Luke 2:1-20 illustrates how God chose to make the biggest birth announcement of all time.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ ” (vv. 8-12).
God chose to send angels to people considered unheard of in society—people engaged in a profession that didn’t demand respect or invite large, adoring audiences who could have spread the word more quickly. The chosen spokespersons were “sweaty, uncouth shepherds.” 2 In a similar way, God is speaking precious messages to us, wherever we are, whatever we’ve done—regardless of our status in anyone else’s eyes. And He is working with us to help us hear and respond to His invitations.
I come from an extended family that knew dire poverty in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. God chose to help them benefit from globalization that began accelerating after the end of the Second World War. By the time I was born, most of my aunts and uncles were able to afford their children a much more comfortable lifestyle than they had ever known in their own childhoods. An important contributing factor was the steadfast faith of my paternal grandmother, who, in spite of her intelligence, industry and meticulous nature, had never gone beyond an elementary school education. She heard Jesus’ challenge to repentance, responded to the call, and held fast to His Word and His presence throughout her difficult life. No doubt she was a praying mother, and God heard her intercessions. She lived to see her children prosper and was able to enjoy a more secure existence with them in her final years. Even today, a family friend in his late 80s is grateful for her encouragement to him as a young man to attend church, which he did. He encountered Jesus in a way that paved the way for his enduring life of faith.
Most poor people believe they are doomed—that their location in life has been predetermined and is impossible to change. What is often seen as “legacy” in mainstream society can be a not-so-subtle message to the broken and excluded that the best opportunities (government elections, successful business enterprises, and more) can only come if one’s heritage and family name have already made it possible. This sense of defeat among the marginalized is reinforced when they have limited opportunities to develop deep or numerous friendships as equals with those enjoying what they perceive as God’s endorsement. But God has a different message He wants to communicate. It is seen not only in the way He chose to announce Jesus’ birth, but in His interactions in Scripture with people who are shunned, mistreated, distressed or helpless (Genesis 16:1-16; 21:8-21; Numbers 27:1-11; 2 Kings 4:1-7; Joshua 2:1-24; 6:24-25). He always stands ready to lift the lowly and to intervene in their difficult circumstances (1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 113:7).
Another observation that can be made from Luke’s account is that although God was at work in the angels’ appearing to bring a joyful and long-awaited message, the shepherds were frightened. While some of our fears do have reasonable cause, we are most often worn down by failing to see a good thing that God is doing for eternity. The shepherds’ alarm turned to joy once they understood the purpose of the vision they were experiencing. Hope can be found in the knowledge that sometimes when God speaks, it can seem terrifying at first, but when we trust His heart toward us, we see that He means only to bring about something good. If not immediately, then unquestionably it will have been for the best in light of eternity. And we will have forever to appreciate it.
We are currently facing circumstances that can arouse all sorts of fears. Yet the words “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid” appear repeatedly in the Bible. In spite of it all, God asks us to fear Him only: the right kind of fear—a reverence, a respect, for how powerful He is; how much greater He is than any person, thing or outcome we might dread.
It is said that adversity reveals character. Maybe that saying can also be true of nations. The pandemic has shown unexpected, unpleasant glimpses of weaknesses in the way our societies function. It has also highlighted some of our societies’ virtues as we have helped, supported and connected with each other locally, nationally and internationally in various ways. 3 But ultimately, as the opening lyrics of this particular rendition of “Silent Night” remind us, Jesus offers the gift of Himself as the only way to mend all that is wrong. And we who have been the undeserving recipients of this offering, who have invited Him to change our lives, become the very instruments of hope that God uses to deliver others from their own self-condemning thoughts and fears. He uses us to interrupt the schemes of the enemy that constantly work through both people and systems to bring them down. We can go a step further than merely inviting people we meet to church, in person or online. We can listen to them, ponder their perspectives, begin to speak life to them, pray with them, advocate for them, and lend practical assistance as needs become evident. In this way, we manifest God’s glory to the people we meet, wherever they are. They are reminded that they, too, are loved—and invited, by faith, to take hold of the love He has poured out for all of us, through the gift of Jesus.
- “Silent Night,” featuring Crystal Nicole, The Gift: A Christmas Compilation by 116 – Reach Records, YouTube, accessed August 11, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIjVCY0mquk.
- Daniel Darling, “Nobodies Were the First to Know,” Christianity Today, December 6, 2019, accessed August 11, 2021, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/characters-christmas-daniel-darling-shepherds.html.
- The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada has been sharing a series of stories and videos that highlight God at work in the lives of people in our Fellowship, throughout our nation, and around the world. Check out “All About ‘This is Good News’ ” at www.thisisgoodnewspaoc.com.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2021 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2021 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.