[Luke 8:2-14] Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
God Has Goodwill toward Men
A gift is a sign of goodwill from the giver and sets the receiver of the gift at ease.
Have you been good this year? Perhaps you haven’t been a good friend to your friend in some ways. You may not have been good to your mother or father like you should’ve been. Or you haven’t been the mother or father you ought to have been to your children. Family, friends. Or you weren’t the best employee to your boss, or the best partner.
The anxiety of having fallen short lingers over your head. But when that gift shows up on your desk, or in the mail, or under the tree – “from so-and-so” – your heart is set at ease. Instead of a rebuke or a cold shoulder, you’ve received their goodwill. so much is mended. That they gave a heartfelt gift is a sign of their goodwill to you – your heart is set at peace.
The human conscience lives in expectation of God’s rebuke. We haven’t been very good. Scripture says, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” [Romans 1:18].
Though we seek to deny it, God’s existence is clear to all, and the conscience of man knows himself to be without excuse. “For what can be known about God is plain to mankind, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him” [Romans 1:19-21].
We’ve known God, but haven’t truly honored Him as God. We haven’t given due thanks to God, but have been ungrateful and entitled.
Therefore, rightfully so, man, by nature, has lived through the centuries in fearful expectation of what bad things he might receive from God.
And, seeing what we have sometimes received, we might become convinced that God does ultimately have only ill will toward us. He couldn’t be blamed. We are without excuse.
Yet on Christmas morning, tomorrow morning, God gave a gift. Not in the mail, but instead laid in a manger. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
God has goodwill toward men. The gift of His Son takes away all doubt. No more heartfelt of a gift could be given, no greater proof of His goodwill than the gift of His Only-Begotten.
The Child born on Christmas morning is proof, beyond any supposed evidence to the contrary, that God has goodwill toward men – And, by this gift, God has made peace with sinners. “Peace on earth” means God and sinners reconciled.
Instead of wrath, God has given a Savior from heaven, God-the-Son, to descend from His heavenly throne and to take His seat in human flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. Fully God and fully Man, this Child is born to carry guilty-man’s sin to the Cross to die in man’s place.
In other words, God gave Jesus that Jesus might give Himself. A fragile baby, given in the straw of a manger – to later give Himself on the wood of a cross. A baby born, wrapped in swaddling cloths – to later give Himself to a burial shroud.
When God gave a gift, He gave of Himself and at great cost – a sacrifice. Look at what evidence you want, but God’s gift of tomorrow morning is the sure and certain sign that He does still have good will toward men.
And, though God has revealed His wrath from the heavens, and has made His eternal power and divine nature known, in part, through “the things that have been made”, now He has made Himself most fully and truly known in this Child born of Mary. We know the phrase, “Like father, like son.” Jesus said of Himself, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14:9] – like Father, like Son.
Jesus, the infant Christ, meek and mild, lying in the manger, made fragile for you, is indeed the “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature” [Hebrews 1:3]. Tomorrow morning you see born the truest and perfect image of God and the enduring final word of His goodwill.
Tomorrow, may penitent men and women see the gift of goodwill that is given that their repentant hearts may be set at ease. Amen.