‘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 Saviour has been born to you…”’(Luke 2:10-11)
Not just a baby, not just to Mary or Joseph, we are informed here in Luke’s gospel that ‘a Saviour has been born to you’ – to the shepherds, and by inference, to everybody. At this point in Scripture it’s neither his deeds nor his extraordinary teaching that sets Jesus apart. It’s the size and scope of his family.
People have argued across the centuries about who Jesus is and to whom he belongs. To Jews? To Christians? To a political group? To whites? To blacks? To the oppressed? Yet what the angel is proposing here is far more radical than any of these. For if the angel is to be believed, Jesus belongs to everybody, and the scale of salvation is global.
No doubt this is difficult for us to contemplate, torn as the world is by tensions and tribalisms, sceptical as many of us are of supranational claims about anything in a postmodern age of many truths or none. How can such an announcement be trusted?
The answer is, it doesn’t. There are alternatives to trust. One alternative is to assert that no such thing happened. No shepherds, no angel, no God-man. However, this creates problems of its own; it requires us to make sense of Jesus without this context and purpose. It requires us to distrust Jesus’ claims about himself as son of God while at the same time trying to maintain his status as good man and masterful teacher, assuming we agree with those descriptions. But as C.S.Lewis put it, ‘A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.’ Have you?
As strange as it might seem, this radical angel statement – that a Saviour has been born to us – is the most sensible explanation for the life of Jesus Christ. It requires some trust but it brings great joy.
Happy Christmas everyone.