Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Twelve words in three sentences. With those words, the angel who was anointed to first deliver the Gospel message, announced it to the shepherds. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel had arrived. The Word made flesh had come. God is among us. You are going to have joy!

We often get so caught up in our dramas, and even in church bureaucracy, that we miss the essential and constant message given to us this night. The Good News of great joy!

Jesus came to bring good news. His news takes away all that is scary, all that is condemning, and that which rises to bring us down by accusation. His news is strong enough to overcome any negativity in our lives. He literally set aside His glory and crown in that impoverished stable to bring us victory, a crown, a trophy we can proudly display.

His victory – our salvation.

His crown – given us as the crown of eternal life.

Our trophy – new lives, changed lives, un-fearing, brave lives of witness and proclamation wherein we say with the angel, to all who will hear us, Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Do not be fooled by this gentle sight – for within it is symbolized Jesus, the great warrior King who comes toward us. He came to do war with fear, condemnation, and accusation. He came not to war with us, but rather to deliver us from the war the world makes. He came toward us and invites us to stand with Him as our great shield. Behind His shield we go forward with twelve words in three sentences, saying to all who will hear us: Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

We have God’s great Good News. Good news of great joy. How wonderful, how blessed is this night. Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I wonder if the translators got it wrong? I wonder if I can say “got” in that sentence? Paul, writing to the Philippians, says he is moving toward the goal. A grammar study would tell us that “to” and “toward” are two different things. There is a key distinction. As we enter into Advent and soon the Christmas season, this is a vital distinction. Are we moving toward or to Jesus? In any sentence, “towards” means “in the direction of that person or thing”. When we use “toward,” we are not describing a destination; the destination is without certainty. Toward only describes a general direction. However, when to say “to” we have defined the destination of our journey. While our exact way of getting to that destination remains un-described, we have set our goal with certainty. We work to get to it. We focus on it. We say with confidence, that is exactly where I am going. Advent is a call to prepare for the journey to the returning and victorious Christ. We are to spend this time getting ready, fortifying ourselves for His return so we can meet Him “standing erect with our heads held high.” We are called to set our destination, and retranslate Paul’s words – I am moving to the goal, to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. That is where I want to be. We may feel fine walking toward Jesus. We might get lucky and trip into the manger at Christmas. The problem with a lack of certainty on our part is that we may miss the mark and end up separated, unable to get to our goal. Getting close, being in the neighborhood, is not enough for Jesus. He wants more. The four weeks of Advent lead to the forty days of Christmas. Time is short. Let us then set the goal, let us be dedicated and focused on the place we need to get to. Let us walk straight to a kingdom defined life. That is the goal, the prize.

December, the quick journey through Advent to the forty day season of Christmas. We discuss the journey, as you see above. Are we heading in God’s general direction, or are we going straight to Him? It makes a difference. We are so excited about these seasons, their quiet times and their activities. Join us for our meatless vigil dinner on December 16th. Listen to what our youth have prepared. Join in and ‘green the church’ on December 23rd.

Looking for real Midnight Holy Mass? Only here in Schenectady! Blessing of wine on the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – yes, that too.

We wish you all the many and varied blessings of these seasons as we expectantly move to Jesus’ return.

Check out all this and more in our December 2018 Newsletter.