Good News to All People
On the night of Jesus’ birth, a common Palestinian tradition was nearly missed.
In Palestine, during the time of Jesus, when a baby was due to be born, it was traditional for friends and family and local musicians to gather near the home. When the birth was announced, the musicians would break into music and song. There would be great rejoicing, with many congratulations extended to the parents.
But when the time care for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph were far away from their home in Nazareth. No family gathered around them. No friends waited outside the home. No local musicians showed up to join in celebrating the birth of their baby.
The traditional Palestinian songfest was nearly missed at the birth of Jesus… but not quite. Luke tells us what happened: “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors!'”
Though their family and friends were far away, and though no musicians gathered to await the birth of this baby, God sent His own singers to celebrate the birth of Jesus! By divine intervention, the tradition of singing at the birth of a child was preserved… but with at least one important difference:
It wasn’t just hometown singers who celebrated the birth of Jesus; it was heavenly musicians, for the significance of Jesus’ birth extended far beyond the town limits of Nazareth, or of Bethlehem, or even of Palestine, or of the Middle East. Local musicians would have been sufficient for welcoming into this world a baby who was born to be a ‘hometown kid.’ Nazareth’s singers would have been adequate for the birth of any boy who would grow up in Nazareth, and make his career in Nazareth, and raise his family in Nazareth. But Jesus was not born to be merely a hometown kid. As John 3:16 points out, Jesus was born on Christmas day because God so loved the entire world!
Since Jesus came for the whole world, a band of local musicians was not enough. A proper celebration of His birth would require a choir composed of people from every nation on earth—or it would require a multitude of angels representing all of heaven and all of earth.
No wonder the Christmas carol emphasizes, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing!”