The First Proclamation of the Gospel

The beginning of the Gospel is in the angel’s words to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of a great joy,” the good news of the birth of a Savior. (Luke 2:10) What news could be better? When he first preached in the synagogue after the forty days in the desert, he himself explained the cause of this joy. He spoke the words of Isaiah that he found upon opening the scroll: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2) What joy could equal this? And what more could good men wish for than to see God exalted by such wonders? From the Gospel we learn the happy news of our salvation. Learning it, we rejoice in it. We behold God’s glory, and we glorify him. Let us rise up to the high places, to the sublime part of ourselves, let us rise up above ourselves to seek God in himself, and with the angels to rejoice in his great glory.

After the song of the angels, “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem,’” and, going in haste, “they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16) Here then is the Savior who has been announced to us! We sigh over the sign that makes him known! It is a unique poverty. We will never again complain of our own misery. We will prefer our cottages to the palaces of kings. We will live happily under our thatched roofs, roofs too splendid to have sheltered the King of kings. Let us go everywhere and tell this good news. Let us go everywhere to console the poor by telling them the wonders we have seen.

How God has prepared the way for his Gospel! Everyone was astonished to hear the beautiful testimony from these innocent though uncouth lips. If it had been famous men—Pharisees or doctors of the Law—who had recounted these wonders, the world would have doubted their intentions, inclining to believe that they had wished to make a name for themselves with their sublime visions. But who would dream of contradicting these simple shepherds in their naïve and sincere testimony? The fullness of their joy shines forth naturally, and their discourse is artless. Witnesses such as these were necessary for the one who would choose fisherman to be his first disciples and the future teachers of his Church.

Every mystery of Jesus Christ wears the same finery. Let us labor to save the poor and to help them to feel the grace of their condition. Let us humble the rich of the world and confound their pride. If something is lacking to us—and who is not lacking for something?—let us love, let us adore, let us kiss the poverty of Jesus Christ. Let us not wish to be wealthy, for what will we gain by it? If we wish to be Christians, we must be ready to detach ourselves and lose everything.

From Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations for Advent (Sophia Institute Press, 2013)

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

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Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (September 27, 1627 – April 12, 1704) was a French bishop and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. Widely considered one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist, he was the Court preacher to Louis XIV of France.

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