Jesus Brings Cheer
by Rev. Randy Brown
Sara is going to come and read our scripture for the morning, and as she is coming, out of reverence and respect for our Lord, would you stand for the reading of God’s word. [Sara reads] Good morning, today’s scripture comes from the book of Luke, Chapter 2, verse 8-15.
In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flocks. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid. For look, I proclaim to you the good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is the Messiah of the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you. You will find the baby wrapped snuggly in cloth, and laying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on Earth to people He favors.” When the angel had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened. Which the Lord He made known to us.”
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. We’re going to pray together. Would you be seated as we pray?
In these moments, oh God, draw us near to your heart and draw near to our hearts, that we may hear with our heart what you say to us today. Lord, come and rescue me from me. Hide me behind your cross. Let the words that are spoken would be your words and not mine. The one that is seen be you and not me. Above all else, may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandaled feet, and know that Jesus has come into our midst. And in His name, and for our glory, I pray. Amen.
Be of good cheer. Be not afraid. For I bring you good news.
A pastor friend of mine was at a hospital years ago, and he was sitting kind of through the night with a family, and their young son was not doing well, and it was kind of touch and go through the night. Early in the morning he woke up, and the dad woke up. And the child was still asleep, and mom was still asleep. And he and the dad decided to go down into the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee. They were sitting there for a moment and just kind of reflecting on what the day could bring. And all of a sudden the doctor walked in and said “I’ve been looking for you. We’ve made it through the critical point and everything’s going to be all right.”
Well this preacher and this dad sat there for a moment, and dad said to the preacher, “Do you think we ought to go up and tell them?” No, he didn’t say that. He ran. He ran into that hospital room and he said, “Honey, I’ve got good news!” Can you think about it? That years and years ago, when Jesus was about to be born, there was an angel in heaven that just couldn’t wait. He was the first one out of the gate. He came to the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And he said, “Guys, I got good news! For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. I’ve got good news!” But with that good news he said, “Don’t be afraid. Be of good cheer” That’s a commandment. And that is a part of not only who Jesus was as he was born, but who he lived, and how he lived the rest of his life.
You know, I told you last week that Jesus is not a baby anymore. But he was always saying, “Be of good cheer.”
Think about it. You’re with a band of shepherds, and they’re lonely, and they’re tired, and they’re worried about all the things that shepherds worry about. They’re worried about sheep getting lost. They’re worried about predators coming in and hurting their flock. They had a lot on their mind. It was a usual day at the office. For some of them, they were tired. They were ready for a rest. And they got through, and all the things were secure, and as they settled down for the evening, conversations turned to the usual things that people talk about: probably the economy; probably a war with a rival nation. It may have been the weather. It may have been raising children: the latest strategy for retirement. It was a day like any other day, except, that day, something was going to happen. They had no idea when they got up that morning what they were in store for that night. But as they went about their daily lives, and as night fell, and as the stars began to come out of the sky, these shepherds…
Now let me tell you something about the shepherds. Shepherds were sometimes members of the despised class. Because of their occupation, they were not considered able to go into the synagogue, and able to go into worship. They worked with animals, and they were considered unclean. But these were also the shepherds that took care of the temple animals. You know, those animals that you would buy to go in and make a sacrifice on the altar at the temple. So, they were needed in society, but they weren’t appreciated in society. They watched over what would become the temple sacrifice. But yet, they were not allowed to go in. Something’s not fair about that. And as these shepherds were doing their job, all of a sudden an angel appeared to them and said, “Be of good cheer. Be not afraid, for behold I bring you good news of great joy.” Can you imagine what you would have done? You would have been in fear and in awe. Amazement. Some type of strange occurrence was going on and “Am I seeing things?” They were prepared for animals and enemies, but they weren’t prepared for angels. But it was angels who came to them that night. And seeing that they were afraid, the first words that the angel said was “Be not afraid. Be of good cheer.”
Now, the word “good cheer” or the word “cheer” comes from the same word where we get enthusiasm. Why is it that we claim to be Christian, but we look miserable? The Psalmist says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation,” and we look like we’re the director of the cruise ship Titanic. It just doesn’t make sense. He said, “Be of good cheer.” Enthusiasm. Have enthusiasm in your life. Because I have something tonight that is good news.
Now, he didn’t say, “You know, you might be interested in this.” He said, “Don’t be afraid, because I’ve got good news. For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Be of good cheer. It is a command. It is a command to be of good cheer. Doesn’t that translate, that word enthusiasm that we ought to have enthusiasm in our life because of who Jesus is? Do not be afraid. Live enthusiastically. For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. I told you, Jesus isn’t a baby anymore in our lives. He expects us not to be baby Christians. He expects us to grow in our faith.
But because of who he was, and because of how he lived, this theme of cheer and enthusiasm runs throughout his life. And it ought to run throughout our life.
Let me share with you some other places where it shows up. In Mark’s gospel, chapter 6, verse 50. It’s a time when the followers of Jesus were in the boat. And they saw something walking toward them. They weren’t sure what it was. And one of them looked out there and said, “It’s a ghost!” And Jesus heard him and he said, “It’s not a ghost. Be of good cheer. It’s me.” Jesus comes to us in the midst of big water – in the midst of desert situations. He comes to us and he says to us, “Be of good cheer. It is I.”
The cheer of his presence, “Don’t be afraid. It’s me, I’m with you.”
You may have come this morning feeling lonely. Feeling lost. Feeling insecure. But there is one who comes to us, and the cheer of his presence says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you, for lo, I am with you always. In the world, you will have tribulations. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” The Psalmist wrote it like this. He knew about the presence of Jesus. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me.” The cheer of his presence!
You know, God shows up in all kinds of places, in all kinds of situations. And whatever the situation is in your life, he’ll show up. The key is, we need to slow down long enough to recognize that he’s there. We get all hurried and scurried around. But he’s there. But sometimes we overlook him. And sometimes we don’t see him. Again, the Psalmist says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley, thou art with me.” Sometimes it’s in those valleys. Not on the mountaintops always, but in the valleys, where we see the cheer of his presence.
When God shows up, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss him. God’s not a flashy kind of God. God’s a humble God. God comes to us in common places, in common ways. Sometimes, if we’re looking for him in other ways, we’ll miss him. God’s not going to come to us in the extraordinary until we experience him in the ordinary. The cheer of his presence!
One of my favorite stories is about a little boy who was running away from home. He ran down to the park, not too many blocks from his house. He spent all day there, and the only thing he took with him was a box of Hostess Twinkies. Y’all remember those? He sat down on that park bench and he ate a Hostess Twinkie. And there was an older, elderly lady sitting there on that park bench with him. And she’d smile, and he realized, “You know, I can share one of these Hostess Twinkies with my friend.” And they passed back and forth. Didn’t say a lot to each other. It came late afternoon and he thought, “You know, I’d better go home.” He went home. She went home. Of course, she was staying with her children. That night at the supper table there was a conversation that went something like this:
“Son what’d you do today?”
“I ate Hostess Twinkies with God.”
“You did what?” (Because they knew how little boys exaggerate.)
“I ate Hostess Twinkies with God.”
“Now son, you don’t need to tell stories like that.”
“No, I ate Hostess Twinkies with God. And you know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile.”
A little ways across town, there was an elderly little lady eating supper with her children.
“What’d you do today, Ma?”
“Well I sat on the park bench and talked with God.”
“Now mom, we know you didn’t do that. What’d you do?”
“No, I sat on a park bench and I talked with God. He’s a lot younger than I thought he was.”
You see God shows up to us, and with us, in all kinds of places. And if we’re not careful, we’ll miss it. The cheer of his presence! There’s another cheer that he gave. It’s the cheer of his pardon. It was the day that he spoke to the paralytic and he said, “Arise and walk. Your sins are forgiven.” And, they began to murmur among themselves. “Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? For there’s only one person who can forgive sins, and that’s God, does he think he’s God?” You know, there’s one trait about Jesus that got him in trouble. He claimed that he could forgive sin. And the legalist of the day said, “Can’t but one person do that. And this is Joseph’s boy. We know he’s not God.” And that got him in trouble. But it was the cheer of his pardon. Sometimes we need that, don’t we? Because we carry around with us all kinds of baggage and garbage from the past, we have failures this week that we need to be forgiven for. And things that we need to forgive others, and maybe even that hardest of all: that we need to forgive ourselves. But Jesus comes to us and says, “Be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven.”
If you came this morning and you’re letting the weight of sin beat you down, hear the good news: Christ forgives you. You are a forgiven person. Be of good cheer! You are forgiven. God forgives our sins. And God frees us. This is one of the most freeing gifts that God gives us. God frees us to forgive each other. Because if you’re holding something against somebody, guess who it’s hurting? It’s hurting you. It’s not hurting anybody but you. They don’t even remember it.
The most freeing thing that God gives us is the gift of forgiveness.
Be of good cheer. Live enthusiastically. For your sins are forgiven.
Sometimes we don’t want to forgive others. Sometimes we want to carry that with us, and we want to even the score. That’s not up to us. There have been times in my life where I was chasing it, and God finally said to me, “I delivered you from that situation. Now, quit going after it. Your sins are forgiven.”
Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. And the cheer of his presence says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” You may be beating yourself up over something that everybody else in the world has forgot about. And God has forgiven.
Hear me this morning. The cheer of his pardon says, “You are not condemned. Be of good cheer.” You belong to Christ. You are not condemned. Be of good cheer.
And then the third thing: Not only the cheer of his presence. Not only the cheer of his pardon. But there’s the cheer of his power. Look at your life this week. Jesus said, “In the world, you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” The cheer of his presence, the cheer of his pardon, and here’s thirdly, the cheer of his power. “For I have overcome the world.” He was there at creation. However it happened, it was God that did it. He was there with his power when the sea was parted. He was there with his power when David stood against Goliath. He was there with his power when the rod crushed the rock. He was there with his power when Job persevered. He was there with his power when Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den, and Shadrach and Meshach were thrown into the fire. He was there. He was there when the winds and waves parted and calmed. He was there when Lazarus came out of the tomb. He was there. His power. And death couldn’t hold him. And the grave couldn’t keep him. The cheer of his power! And his power is available to you. “Be of good cheer,” he says, “For I have overcome the world.” Not only has he overcome it. You know what he says about us? “You are more than conquerors through Him who loved you.”
Church, I got good news for you. A Savior is born. And it’s not just a baby’s cheer. It’s the cheer of his presence, it’s the cheer of his pardon, and it’s the cheer of his power that brings us to new life. I got good news. You can live enthusiastically because who this baby is. Receive His cheer. Receive His enthusiasm and live. Now that’s what the book says. And the book doesn’t lie.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank you that we don’t have to live just moping around, that you have provided, and you call us to live enthusiastically – to be of good cheer. Lord may we live our life in such a way that we reflect your power – your cheer – your grace, in the name of the Christ child. Amen.