Tidings isn’t a word we use much anymore. Even so, most of us know that it basically means “breaking news.” And if you’re like me, when you see the words breaking news scrolling across the bottom of your television screen, you brace yourself for something terrible.
The fact is, people in all times have been more likely to expect bad news rather than good. Maybe that’s why the angels delivering the fifth prophetic word of Christmas to a group of shepherds overseeing a flock of sheep at night felt the need to immediately assure their audience they were about to hear good tidings:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 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. (Luke 2:8–10)
You can understand why these shepherds were startled. They’re settled in for yet another long, quiet night of guarding the flocks against predators and thieves—one of thousands they’ve experienced in the past—when suddenly a luminous being appears before them and the entire camp is bathed in shimmering light. It is as if a portal into heaven itself has opened up and the glory of God’s throne room is pouring out of it into the dark Judean night. And in a sense, it is.
Gabriel’s first words to Zacharias had been, “Don’t be afraid.” Likewise, his second sentence to Mary was, “Do not be afraid.” Is this Gabriel again? Very possibly, but the Bible doesn’t identify this messenger. What we do know is that the angel begins with those very same words of calming reassurance.
They are followed by a reason. He comes bearing wonderful news...news that will bring joy to “all people.” The angel’s message is, quite literally, “Joy to the World.”
Those of us living in the twenty-first century have no way to imagine how dark a place the world was before Jesus entered it—leaving behind a Church that is literally His body and presence, spreading all over the planet like a sweet, life-giving fragrance. We have no idea how saturated with demonic violence, slavery, oppression, suffering, and injustice every nook and cranny of this world was before that baby arrived.
What is this joyful news? “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). In one half of a sentence, we see three key titles attributed to this newborn—“Savior, Christ, and Lord.”
This proclamation that will one day bring joy to the world already has heaven rejoicing. No sooner are the words out of the angel’s mouth than a vast chorus of angelic praise erupts:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill
toward men!” (Luke 2:13–14)
Here, the fifth word of Christmas has not only been spoken, it has been demonstrated in the rejoicing of angels.
To read more, purchase your copy of Seven Words of Christmas at Gateway Bookstore!