It’s been over a month since the Advent season ended, yet I’m drawn back to the words declared by the angel to the shepherds in Luke 2. The angels appeared to a group of shepherds to announce the birth of a king. The birth of the King. The most important and most powerful King of all kings was heralded to a bunch of blue collar workers who slept on the ground while protecting and caring for animals. The words the angel spoke were simple but powerful.
To be sure, part of the reason the angel said “Fear not” is because if even one angel shows up out of nowhere one would be right to tremble, much more when a whole host of angels shows up in shining glory. But this angel said there wasn’t a reason to fear because they brought good news. They brought gospel.
For centuries the Jews lived under the rigidness of the Law. They lived under the repetition of the sacrificial system, a foreshadowing of the sacrifice the Messiah would bring and a recurring reminder of their sin and need for God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. This Savior is the gospel the angel declared, the Savior who would bring to man the peace of God (Phil. 4:7) and peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Peace because the final atonement for sin has come. Peace because God’s own Son came to take our sin so that we could become his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Peace because the Christ came to live the perfect life we could never live so that he could die the death we fully deserve.
Yet, we take this gospel that we desperately need and tend to forget the gracious nature of it when we talk with other people, particularly when someone commits one of the “big” sins. It tends to happen more in parent-child relationships, but is also prevalent among bloggers and critics of their fellow Christians. The idea of “You know better than that!” rains down a crushing blow upon the already wounded. The lack of grace makes it hard for teens and young adults to be honest with parents, and that transcends into other relationships as well. We love the law because we can measure ourselves and others by it, but are desperately reliant on grace because we all fall short of the requirements of the law. Yet when we fail to extend the same grace we have received we become accidental legalists, holding the shame of a person’s sin over them rather than being a minister of reconciliation.
This isn’t anything new, but we’re going to spend the rest of the week looking at our hearts and where the Church can do a much better job of displaying the gospel instead of laying heavy burdens on the weak and wounded.