In this season we can all have wishes for so many good things and yet everywhere we turn the news of the day seems to be the exact opposite. The worldwide pandemic lingers on after two years and information about it keeps changing and leaving us uncertain. That uncertainty paralyzes some of us fearing to leave our homes very often while others throw caution to the wind, and no one knows who will succumb to this clever enemy or even why. But the “bad news” doesn’t stop there.
Just as you want to go shopping online or in the stores, we discover there are fewer items available due to the pandemic, supply chain issues, not enough employees and more. Additionally, inflation is causing every part of life to be more expensive, and we watch the gas prices soar and the grocery store search to keep their shelves stocked with what we usually would buy.
Natural disasters tear through the land and sea leaving destruction in their wake and hopes get dashed as people die, homes and businesses are destroyed, and things people worked hard to have are torn from their hands. Nations are at odds with one another in one place or another as they have been for centuries.
These are some of the things affecting nearly everyone, but that isn’t the end of the news that savages our hearts. Some are facing a new diagnosis with uncertain prognosis, others are facing their first Christmas without one that is dear to them, and some others are fighting for their lives in hospital beds.
If we can summon up the possibility of dreaming, it would be nice to be in a nice hotel somewhere ordering room service without a thought to the cost or a concern for anything at all.
Malaise and weariness can haunt our steps as we try to make this a good Christmas season despite all these things and more.
We seem to think this is unusual for so many things to be so difficult (so “bad”), but that is where we are mistaken. Over and over again this season has come during dark, difficult, and seemingly hopeless times century after century.
So how could Good News be one of the Gifts of Christmas?
On the night Christ was born the world was a dark, dangerous, and difficult place for people in that time. And when the angels came to announce to the poor lowly shepherds that He had been born and where to find Him, Luke tells us they said this:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”Luke 2:8-11 (NIV)
Good news? What had changed because a baby (the Christ) was born and lying in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem? Were the circumstances of the shepherds or Mary and Joseph different now? Had their economic provision improved, their status in the community advanced, or were they now free from the tax burden and tyranny of the Roman government of Caesar? No!
The Good News was that Immanuel, God with us, was now present to make Himself known to us and to know what it was like to be the humankind He had created back in the Garden. He came to tell us over and over again that this life was not the end and that life with Him in his Kingdom was what He was offering for any and all who would accept Him and believe.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”John 3:36 (ESV)
The Good News was that He loved us enough to show us unmistakably that He cared by laying aside his glory and leaving the perfection of heaven to be born in human form to a poor couple in an animal feeding trough in a barn. The Good News was that He was born to die to become the perfect sacrifice (something all those sacrifices people needed to bring to the Temple could not totally be) for all our weaknesses, failures, and rejection of Him so we could be saved and rejoined to Him by the Holy Spirit not only now but later in eternity.
And that Good News all these years later is still true. The pandemic cannot destroy it, uncertain economies cannot crush it, and death cannot rob us of it if we believe and accept it.
The headlines of the day and the circumstances of our daily lives may not offer us Good News, but that is not where we should expect to find it.
The Good News, the Gospel, is still there for us and nothing can diminish it.