Brothers and Sisters,
Joy! Joy! Joy! Great Joy!
The first Christmas, great joy came into the world, as told by an angel.
In that region (in Judea) 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.10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace and goodwill to all! (Luke 2:9-14)
The good news of great joy was for everyone! The angel said the baby that was born was a Saviour, the Messiah, and the Lord. Praising God and celebrating the birth of Jesus was the result of the most wonderful miracle. The angels were joyful, because God’s plan, his gift of love, had come to fulfilment. His plan which was to come in the form of a human, to carry out his purpose of salvation for the entire world, had been achieved in the birth of Jesus Christ, who was also called Son of God. Hence we hear that he was also to be named Emmanuel, God with us. What an amazing occurrence, God with man? No wonder the angel said it was news of great joy, what kind of love was this? The birth of Jesus Christ would be followed by a life of ministry that expressed God’s love and ultimately that love would lead him to death – He was born to die for the world God loves.
We too are reminded of the message of the angel that the great joy is for us today as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, this Christmas. But, maybe Christmas is meaningless to you. Maybe you have no relationship with Jesus and this Christmas maybe you face bitter disappointment, or loneliness, or you feel that nobody loves you or that people have betrayed you or turned their backs on you or that you suffered violence or maybe, you feel worthless or maybe you are a Christian who is being persecuted for your faith in Jesus. Do not give up on yourself. God is a father for you and for everyone. This Christmas, you may miss loved ones and memories come back to you. God will comfort and strengthened you. You may be sick or you may have lost everything you owned or worked for, or you may be away from your home as a refugee or alien here in The Gambia or abroad in other countries. May you know the love of God, his peace, hope and his healing power, and may he comfort you and give you the strength you need to never quit or give up.
God’s gift of love is Jesus Christ. That is why the angels praised God and celebrated his birth. The angel also showed that it was necessary to recognise the Messiah and to accept him personally as Lord and Saviour. May we never take this wonderful gift for granted. May we always treasure it and rejoice in it. We need to believe the message the angel brought to the shepherds, that the baby who was born is indeed the Saviour for all, even today. Let us join in the celebration of the multitude of the heavenly hosts who celebrate the birth of Jesus and give praise to God.
Let us continue to share the Good News of Jesus with all around us like the angels did. Let us together reach out to the young people in this nation of The Gambia and pass on to them the great truths of faith in God’s love and caring and providence, let us remind them of the great joy of Christmas, and let us together help them to find hope and a vision for their future life here at home in The Gambia. Let us together pray for and work towards a country where young people can find fulfilling work and a safe environment. Let us together build a nation in which young people can flourish and find contentment and happiness.
This Christmas, nearly one year after a new government has begun to serve in our beloved country, let us together continue to pray for all those who hold responsibility in government and the National Assembly and in all public spheres of the country’s life and work. May God grant them the wisdom, courage and integrity which they need to fulfil their demanding roles for the common good. May God add his blessings to all our efforts so that together we will achieve all the goals we have set ourselves for the good of the Nation.
On behalf of the Methodist Church The Gambia, I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a life filled with the love of God. Amen.