Paula Lebovics was 11 years old when Nazi Germany collapsed and Allied troops reached the concentration camp in Auschwitz where she had been held.
A Russian soldier greeted her with an offer of food, tears streaming down his face, and a warm hug. “You mean someone out there cares about me?” She wondered. Imagine her joy to learn the good news of the war’s end and her freedom from the living nightmare.
Another prisoner’s joy has lasted many years since. In recounting the day of her rescue, Gerda Klein said,
“I couldn’t absorb the wonder of perhaps freedom! Until the crushing, almost overwhelming joy of seeing this strange car coming down the hill.”
Gerda was 21 when liberated during a forced march in Czechoslovakia, and she recalls how an American intelligence officer held a door open for her and called her a “lady.”
“He held the door open for me and let me precede him, and restored me to humanity again. And he has been holding the door open for me for 50 years – my husband.”
For the thousands of prisoners locked away in the death camps, the news of their liberation was certainly one of “great joy”!
This is but a faint echo of an even greater message of good news—a message of great joy that came to a few common shepherds on a Judean hillside. Like prisoners terrified by the uncertainty of the intentions of their deliverers, the shepherds were overwhelmed with fear at the sudden appearance of the angelic visitor.
“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid!”
What must this have been like for those men?
Imagine being on your second shift job, working late into the evening with a handful of diligent co-workers. The parts move methodically down the line. The hum of the machine would lull you to sleep were it not for the critical part you played in putting the product together. It’s not particularly difficult work; your mind can wander to other things as your fingers follow the same routine part after part…minute after minute…as your shift rolls on.
But suddenly the power goes out and the shop descends into darkness. Even the back-up power supply fails to kick in. But the darkness lasts only a few seconds before you’re engulfed in brilliant, glorious white light! And a rich, baritone voice calls from the light and begins, “Stop fearing!”
But the voice continues, offers an explanation. “I’ve got good news!” And instantly, instinctively you know this voice is not a man’s. It’s a voice from beyond the veil—it must be angelic! He continues: “The good news is a message of great joy for people all over the planet!”
You’re riveted. You can neither speak nor move…wouldn’t if you could! What could this message be? What could bring joy to so many people…to so many places?
“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”
You’re beginning to get it. A few minutes earlier on break, your co-workers were lamenting the state of affairs in this broken world. War…disease…heartache…families in disarray…loved ones trapped in addictions…as if the whole world is imprisoned by some unseen malevolent enemy. Indeed!
And now this! This message!…A Savior!…A Liberator! Freedom! As the impact of this joyous message begins to hit home and the tears of joy well up in your eyes, the brightness intensifies…the voices multiply into a grand chorus overwhelming the senses with their praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towared men!”
And a few seconds later, the lights flicker on…the machines resume their hum…the conveyor belt slowly comes to life. But the work is done for this night. You’re unaware of the streams of tears flowing down your face until you see your co-workers’ tears. You all reach the same conclusion. “We must go find this baby! This Savior, Christ the Lord!”
And find him the shepherds did. And in finding him they absolutely couldn’t help but tell the good news of great joy to everyone they met! Centuries later a songwriter tried to put words into the shepherd’s mouths and set them to music:
1 While by the sheep we watched at night,
glad tidings brought an angel bright.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
2 There shall be born, so he did say,
in Bethlehem a child today. How great our joy!…
3 There shall the child lie in a stall,
this child who shall redeem us all. How great our joy!…
4 This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
that ever joy our hearts shall fill. [FULL REFRAIN]
Have you found this joy, found only in Him, this Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ?