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an excerpt from the beginning of the chapter entitled:THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE.Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.—St. Luke ii. 10.Out of the midnight sky the message came- and the shepherds heard it. Darkness had closed in upon them. UpMorean excerpt from the beginning of the chapter entitled:THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE.Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.—St. Luke ii. 10.Out of the midnight sky the message came- and the shepherds heard it. Darkness had closed in upon them. Up above, the faint stars had shed a few rays of dim light, not bright enough to see by. Beside their feet, their lanterns flickered, enough to mark the rocks and grass of the pasture, and the sheep which they were set to watch. But all about them, like a wall, was the darkness of the Syrian night.And then the light came. There was a sudden break in the black clouds. Out shone a great gleam of the radiance of heaven. The whole expanse above was flooded with celestial glory. And out of the central shining of it came the angel with the message: and a whole choir, and throng and multitude of angels came behind him, in bright array, with the voice of singing, chanting praises and alleluias and anthems of joy and jubilation. Glory to God, ran the refrain, and on earth peace.The whole world lay in darkness. It was night and winter, not only overhead and underfoot, but in mens hearts. Out they looked, and in they looked, and there was blackness everywhere. A universal sadness and despair possessed the race. The old religions were dead or dying. Men were asking about God, and getting no answers or only lies for answers. There was no guide. There was no clear vision. Here and there some sage or prophet, like the dim stars, had a bit of light from heaven to offer for the directing of mens feet. And the flickering lanterns of conscience and philosophy showed a step or two of the immediate way, and pointed out some of the nearer duties. And when the light began to shine over the Bethlehem pastures, they who saw it were afraid. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, sang the herald angels in the glory of the Christmas sky, and they hid their faces. That heaven should be open, that a messenger from God should really speak to the inhabitants of earth, seemed too good for anybody to believe. The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them- and they were sore afraid.Away with fear. Be not afraid. Away with the black night. Hail to the sun, and the dawn, and the new day, and smiles and singing and glad hearts. The old is passed away,— behold I bring you good tidings,—good tidings of great joy.It is the characteristic Christian message. It is what the Christian church is set in the midst of a dark world to say. Is it not a dark world, where this light does not shine? where men and women tremble in the midst of their pleasures, and look into the future with foreboding, and nothing satisfies, and there is no peace? Take away the thought of God, banish the life everlasting out of human hope, and what is left? The only way to be happy, if this is gone, is to stop thinking. Do not think- do not look up or ahead- for if you do you will discover that it is winter and black midnight.But here is the church of Christ bringing glad tidings of great joy to all these men and women under this black sky, making the whole world bright and beautiful and new and wonderful .and worthwhile and glad. The church takes a word out of the Christmas message and makes it a description of all Christian teaching. We preach the gospel. And gospel means good tidings. The message of the Christian church is to tell the best piece of good news which anybody ever heard, and to change night into day the whole world over, and to bring the Christmas joy into every heart.There is no place in our religion for the melancholy speech of pessimism, no room for despondency or discouragement. The emphatic word in it from the beginning is this word joy. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice. Be glad- lift up your heads- lift up your hearts. The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads- they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. That old prophecy finds fulfillment in every Christian heart. He who knows that God is his loving Father, and that the Lord Christ is his sure Saviour, and that the grave is but an open gate into a celestial country and a heavenly company and a life eternal—has he not good reason to be glad! Sorrow comes, indeed, pain enters into every life, disappointment besets us, there is tribulation, as was promised- but in the heart of the true disciple of the Lord Jesus, the sun shines on forever. We have a secret which helps us to face troubles and to banish fear, and amidst perplexities to dwell in peace. It is the secret which the angel told the shepherds,—the open secret of great joy.