SOUDER: Christmas: The best good news ever

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There are a lot of great tidings, but none quite like this.

By Chuck Souder

“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

We all like good news: “It’s a girl!” “The biopsy came back negative. The cancer is gone!” “Today’s test is cancelled. Everyone gets an ‘A’!” “IU finally beat Kentucky!”

(You knew I had to say something about it!) Yes, everyone likes good news – even if we may not agree on exactly which news is considered good!

So what was the good news about which the angel spoke? What is the good news of Christmas? For some, the joy of Christmas is limited to what presents they might receive.

I recently read about a shopping mall Santa Claus who was very surprised to see a young woman in her early 20s among the mostly preschool aged children lined up to see him.

Even though everyone knows that Santa usually doesn’t take requests from adults, when it was her turn, the young woman boldly walked up and sat on his lap.

Not wanting to cause a scene, Santa simply asked her his standard question: “What do you want for Christmas?”

“Something for my mother, please,” replied the young lady sweetly.

Impressed with her apparent selflessness, Santa smiled and said, “Something for your mother? Well, that's very loving and thoughtful of you. What would you like me to bring her?”

Without pausing, the young woman answered, “A millionaire son-in-law.”

Perhaps she didn’t have the true spirit of Christmas after all. But if this hopeful-bride-to-be didn’t grasp the deeper meaning of the holiday, what was she missing?

Simply this: Christmas isn’t primarily about what we get. This is the lesson the Who’s down in Who-ville famously taught the Grinch, and he exclaimed in disbelief, “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

(And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore, then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!)

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”

But what is that “little bit more”? Some simply might answer “love,” and that gets closer to the truth. But “love” used to mean so many things that we first need to define our terms.

For example, when a group of kids was asked, “What does love mean?”, some of them came up with rather profound answers.
Rebecca explained love this way: "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."

Four-year-old Billy had a more personal take: "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."

Some recognized that love had practical implications. For example, 7-year-old Danny said, "Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay."

Similarly, 5-year-old Elaine said, "Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken," and 7-year-old Chris said, “Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."

Six-year-old Chrissy seemed to understand the generous nature of love when she said, "Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."

A couple of the kids even began to grasp the unconditional nature of real love.

Six-year-old Tommy said, “"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well," and 4-year-old Mary Ann said, “"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."

And though the insight of all of these children is amazing, perhaps the most profound response came from 7-year-old Bobby: "Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

Truly, Christmas is about love, though not primarily about our love for each other. In perhaps the most quoted words in the entire Bible, we find the best one-verse explanation of the meaning of Christmas.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The good news about which the angel spoke on that first Christmas was not that we needed to get our act together. It wasn’t that we needed to “get back in church” or even “give our life to God.”

Jesus didn’t come with a new list of rules or “thou shalt not’s.” He didn’t come to condemn us or to “put us in our place.”

 On the contrary, the good news of Christmas is that Jesus came to put himself in our place, and to put us in his place as sons (and daughters) of God.

The good news of Christmas is that because of His great love for us, God sent Jesus into the world to save us from the eternal consequences of our sin.

Even better, the angel declared that good news of Christmas wasn’t just for the religious elite but for “all the people” or, as John wrote, for “whoever believes in him.”

This, then, is Christmas: God becoming man. The free gift of salvation to any who believe. Not getting the punishment we deserve. Now that’s what I call good news!

Even if your team lost last week.


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org