“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11
Let’s imagine for a moment that this most famous of all birth announcements and the birth of Jesus Christ happened not 2,000 years ago but instead took place just last night. What sort of media coverage do you suppose the story would receive? How would the news headlines read? Would they be positive or negative? Would it be met with jubilation or cynicism? The news would certainly be trending on Twitter, your Facebook feed would be filling up with grainy phone video of glowing hillsides recorded by eyewitnesses, the internet would be blowing up with opinion pieces, and the talk radio shows would be inundated with calls from believers, sceptics, and deniers alike. You would then turn on your television to see the appropriately serious news anchors of all the major news networks sitting at their news desks, nodding to the breathless reporter who has just concluded their interview with a shepherd from “live on the scene at Bethlehem” and then turn to their assembled panel of supposed experts for discussion. The first question would go to the expert on science: “Do these so-called angels, that the shepherds allege to have seen, perhaps have some scientific explanation?” The second question would go to the expert on psychology: “Let’s suppose these shepherds are telling the truth about what they saw, is it possible that multiple people can have identical hallucinations simultaneously?” The third question would go to the expert on religion: “How might deeply held religious beliefs, such as the belief in a coming saviour, influence how people interpret unusual events taking place?” The final question would go to the expert on sociology: “Could this be nothing more than a case of some shepherds having a little too much “Holiday Cheer”?” Then after the appropriate amount of back and forth discussion and banter, the news anchor would smoothly segue away...
The conclusion left to be drawn by the viewing audience is clear – a story about angelic messengers, a virgin birth and the coming of a long awaited saviour could not possibly be a factual event, so therefore it must be just another story to be thrown onto the ever increasing pile of “Fake News”.
Of course in today’s increasingly hostile political climate there is a constant battle being waged over what is or isn’t fake news. The net result for the general public left trying to discern truth from falsehood is that it becomes increasingly sceptical and doubtful of almost everything and everyone. In short – we just don’t know what or who we can believe anymore.
Now before we overly lament the sad state of affairs today, it helps to be reminded that this is far from a new phenomena, in fact 1st Century Israel was in a far more politically volatile climate than our own. First consider that they lived under the iron fist of Roman occupation, second they had the maniacal King Herod to contend with as well, third there were the Jewish Zealots who were always ready to rise up against the Romans in another bloody revolt, and fourth there were the ruling Jewish religious class who had authority in all matters of Jewish life whether great or small. Now with all of those competing voices telling the people what to believe, how to think, and what to do, it’s no surprise that the 1st century Jews were often just as sceptical and cynical about what they were told as we are today. Of course, having a sceptical mindset in these circumstances is entirely understandable, but the downside of it is that people can become so distrustful of everything and everyone that they often end up rejecting the truth even when it’s right in their face. That is exactly what happened to Israel with the arrival of their long awaited Messiah, for though they had been looking and waiting for Him for thousands of years, John 1:11 tells us: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Now while it’s incredibly easy to criticize Israel for the fatal mistake of rejecting their own Messiah – we must also ask ourselves – is our nation guilty of making the same fatal mistake right now? Do we still recognize the Savior of the world and believe that the supernatural birth of Jesus Christ was a factual event? Or in our skepticism and cynicism and intellectual arrogance have we relegated the most important event in history into the category of “Fake News”? If so, we need to examine our thinking, tune out all the other clamoring voices and listen again to the only completely reliable source of truth which is the Word of God. And God’s Word tells us that though Israel missed their Savior, we don’t have to make the same mistake.“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12.
My prayer for you this Christmastime is that if you have not already done so, that you would receive Jesus, believe in His name and become a child of God! And if you have already done so, I pray that the reality of Jesus life within you would shine more brightly every day!
From our family to yours, have a Merry Christmas!
Pastor Danny & Leanne Groening, Declan, Theodore & Adaline
Killarney Mennonite Church
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