Christmas According to the Angels (pt. 2 of 3)
In our first installment in this series, we learned that the Gospel birth announcements of the angels brought “good news of great joy” to those humbled by sin, suffering, and death. In this our second installment, we focus on two more truths: 1) the birth announcements of the angels were sent to “all the people” (Luke 2:10) and 2) those birth announcements spoke of Jesus’ person and work. Let’s look more closely at each of these points.
When we reflect on the angels sending birth announcements to “all the people,” we need to appreciate that the angels were not saying here that the God of the Bible is a universalist. No, God is not a universalist, either in judgment or in salvation. Here our focus is on God’s saving work and will. The God of the Bible does not save or intend to save every sinner without exception. He saves only those sinners who repent and believe. What the birth announcements of the angels are saying, then, is that the God of the Bible shows no partiality in saving sinners.
In the Bible, God has revealed Himself as impartial to sinners regardless of the social categories into which we may distinguish them. He saves all sorts of people. He saves those who are not in authority as well as those who are in authority. He saves females as well as males, the poor as well as the rich, the powerless as well as the powerful. He saves non-Jews as well as Jews, Turks as well as Iraqis, Palestinians as well as Israelis. He saves Native American Indians as well as South American mountain Indians, Africans as well as Europeans.
In other words, the angels tell us that, when it comes to saving sinners, the God of the Bible is partial to no nationality, language, status, gender, or other distinction made among mankind. None of these distinctions counts against us sinners. None of them excludes us from God’s saving work and will.
How do you respond to God’s impartiality? The OT prophet Jonah was very displeased with the prospect that God’s impartiality could include even those notorious evildoers in Assyria who repented. Jonah even went so far as to say to God, who had just relented from judging the Assyrians who repented, “O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). Would you rather die than see God’s saving work and will reach even to exceedingly wicked evildoers who repent in our day? If that’s your attitude, don’t forget what happened to Jonah. Better yet, remember that the Gospel birth announcements of the angels were sent to “all the people.”
Some of us count “all the people” according to carnal standards, not according to spiritual standards. The angels who brought the birth announcements of Christmas teach us how to count. They tell that the “good news of great joy” comes to people in bondage to their sins, regardless of any other social category into which we may distinguish them.
The birth announcements of the angels that came to “all the people” also spoke of Jesus’ person and work. Notice the titles the angels used to describe Jesus.
He is “Savior” (Luke 2:11). In fact, because He will save His people from the bondage of their sins, the angels from heaven directed Joseph and Mary, his earthly parents, to name the Christ child “Jesus” (Matt 1:21). His very name, a Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua,” signifies the truth that “Yahweh (Jehovah) saves.” In Jesus, then, there is a “Joshua” who brings a deliverance greater than that of Moses, of Joshua, and of David. They had delivered the nation from their Gentile enemies, but Jesus will deliver His people from their sins, and in so doing, He will show Himself to be God Himself, for it is God alone who redeems His people from their sins (Ps 130:8).
The Child in the manger is not only “Savior”; He is also “Christ” (Luke 2:11), the Anointed One of God. Jesus is the final Prophet anointed to lead God’s people to spiritual liberty, the greater Priest anointed to offer that one sacrifice of Himself to take away the sins of the world, the true King anointed to conquer sin and death and thereby make His nation secure and pure for fellowship with God.
The Child is also “the Lord” (Luke 2.11). Indeed, He is “God with us” (Matt 1.23). He is God, absolute Sovereign over all, from Whom, to Whom, and through Whom are all things. He is the Son called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” whose government and peace will never end as He reigns on David’s throne forever (Isa 9:6). As Lord of all, this Jesus will lift up the lowly and humbled by faith, even as He will bring down the proud and mighty in their sins.
What is the bottom line here? When the angels speak of Jesus’ person and work, they tell us that there is hope for those who live in the land of the darkness of sin, in the land of the shadow of death. They tell us that there is hope because someone greater than Abraham is here, someone greater than Moses and Joshua is here, someone greater than David and Solomon is here. Jesus exceeds them all in His person and His work.
What “good news of great joy” to “all the people” this is!
This is part two of a three part series. Read part one here.