The Christmas Gospel

Christmas 101 = Gospel 101

Luke 2:10-11. The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." 

These words announced by an angel that first historic Christmas night (and reiterated by Charlie Brown and millions of others since) provide for us the heart of the gospel. As a matter of fact, the word gospel means good news. The actual Greek rendering of this phrase employed by the angel is: "I evangelize or pronounce to you great joy." The heartbeat of the Christmas story is the announcement of a message of great joy.

And notice the gospel is a message of great joy intended for all people: shepherds, Magi, unwed mothers, insecure fathers, politicians, beggars, moral people, immoral people, blue collar workers, alcoholics, prostitutes, soldiers, auditors, children, victims, liars, poor people, religious leaders, angry people, bitter people, greedy people, jealous people, sweet people, forgiving people, generous people, and content people.  The gospel is intended for people who are hurt, healthy, disappointed, happy, broken, ugly, attractive, dissatisfied, militant, aggressive, humble, passive, proud, or curious.  The message is for all types of people - regardless of personality, skin color, nationality, upbringing, dialect, size, shape, or tendencies.  It is for ALL people - that's part of what makes it good news - it is more inclusive than exclusive.

What is this gospel of good news provided for all people?

Here's what the gospel is NOT:
- Straighten up
- Shape up
- Clean up
- Sober up
- Go to church
- Be good
- Stop doing ________
- Start doing ________
- Try to be ________
- Try to not ________

The gospel message announced to the world via a bunch of messy renegades that first Christmas night is not about condemnation but about redemption. Luke's rendition of the event emphasizes the dawning of something new and redemptive (salvation begins TODAY ~ both fulfillment and initiation start now). Twenty times in his 2 books Luke utilizes the word translated today to underscore the emergence of a new era that focuses more on our redemption and less on our condemnation.  "Thou shalt nots" do not redeem - every religion is filled with its own set of rules and regulations. What separates the gospel is that it is not about what we do or do not do. Instead it is about what He has done. And that is good news!

So guess what? If those of us who claim to follow Jesus place a greater emphasis on condemnation than we do redemption, we have missed the heart of the gospel proclaimed that night. If people feel more condemned than loved, we have misrepresented the message. I'm not sure if you know the history of shepherds, but let's just say that they were not the most respected and moral people in the community. And yet this group of outlaws were the audience God chose when He provided a soundbite of His eternal plan. When you understand the gospel, you understand why.

What was the message initiated that night? "A Savior has been born" This same memo was sent earlier when another angel instructed the earthly parents of Jesus to name their child Jesus. Why? Because, the angel revealed, the name means "God saves" and Jesus will save His people from their sins

There we have it - the gospel in a nutshell: God sent a Savior into the world to save people from their sins. Why did God send a Savior? Because we are sinners - we can't save ourselves. Our feeble attempts at goodness fall short of his perfect standard. We can't keep a rigid enough list to earn favor with God. We need Someone to bridge the gap between our sin and God's perfection. We need Someone to do what we cannot do. We need Someone to save us from our sins and that is what Jesus came to do - save us from us. God sent a Savior because that is exactly what we needed.

God did not send a helper. He did not send a supplement. He did not send an addendum or a complement. He did not send Someone to help us get to God. Salvation is not my goodness + Jesus. The gospel is not my moral efforts + Jesus. We need a Savior to save us from our sins.

The good news of God is about salvation. The gospel is about redemption. It is the same message that was declared by an angelic army to a band of ragtag sinners on a hillside overlooking Bethlehem and it is the same gospel that continues to transform sinners into followers today.

Christmas is about Jesus - not just the 7 pound, 6 ounce golden-fleeced baby Jesus laying in that sanitized manger in our nativity scenes. But the Jesus who came to do what we can't do ourselves - save us from our sins. And that is the heart of the gospel.

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