Have you heard the news? The papers are full of it. They’ve been full of it every day in 2010. And it’s mostly been bad news. The terrible sufferings in Haiti after the January earthquake, and then the hurricane: the homelessness, the cholera. And the seemingly endless cycle of violence, of suicide bombings – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. The plight of the Palestinian people and all who face injustice in the Holy Land. The frightening escalations of war-like rhetoric, and threat of a nuclear attack in Korea. And then this year, the appalling financial crisis , with so many suffering anxiety and loss – the loss of jobs, the loss of homes through mortgage foreclosure. And then anxiety about our nation which seems so polarized between blue and red states, between wealthy and poor. More and more bad news.
Such a diet of bad news, day after day, can profoundly affect the way that we see our own lives. We can look back over 2010 and pick out the bad news – for ourselves, our families, our work, our homes.
And what about you, yourself? If a bad-news merchant from a tabloid on the lookout for a story, honed in on you looking for something bad to report, determined to dig something up about you that you’d rather the public didn’t know – I wonder what they’d find? They’d find something sooner or later because there’s bad news about all of us if you look hard enough: things we’ve done, or said, which we maybe wished we hadn’t – and which we’d hate to be made known. In England there are some particularly intrusive tabloids – the Sun, the News of the World, which make huge amounts of money because of peoples’ insatiable interest in reading bad news: the salacious details of celebrities’ lives. Part of the interest in these scandals is the relief that my bad news hasn’t been exposed for all to see. My bad news is still safe from public gaze and ridicule. “There but for the Grace of God go I.”
Tonight we’re here to celebrate Christmas! We are here to celebrate Good News – wonderful, joyful good news – not make-believe or wishful thinking. The good news is this: that “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5)
Yes there is darkness – God knows there is darkness – darkness and all sorts of sinful, hurtful and shameful things in all of us, and in our society, our world. But the good news is that when God looks closely at you he is not like the tabloid writer looking for scandal, for bad news. When God looks at you, he looks at you with the eyes of love, just as when you look at the person you love, you see how lovely they are – all that is beautiful and good about them.
And when the person we love: our spouse, our children, our partner, our brother – when they are in trouble, or mess up, or fail and exam, or lose a job, or do something stupid and wrong, we don’t point the finger at them, or condemn them, or tell everyone about it, like the newspapers. No, we love them even more, and we do everything in our power to help them because we love them. And when things go wrong, we love them even more.
And when God looks at you and me, and sees how silly we often are, how we mess up, how easily we fall and sin: how we hurt each other, and ourselves, how we damage our beautiful world, our environment; when God looks at his beloved children in Iraq, Afghanistan, shooting and burning and blowing each other up, when he sees his beloved children in this country hurting and damaging and destroying each other, he doesn’t condemn them and say, “You human beings are bad news. I wash my hands of you.” No! God loves us all the more. God so loves us that he sends his only Son Jesus Christ into the world at Christmas. But God didn’t send Jesus to us in order to look for the bad news about us. St. John writes in his Gospel, chapter three: “Indeed God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
God sent Jesus into the world at Christmas to share what it is to be human: to experience in his body the terrible, hurtful and sinful things that we can do to each other – and yet to carry on loving us, and forgiving us and redeeming us: restoring us to who we are meant to be.
And that is very good news. However dark life can be, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. However bad the bad news is, the good news is better, is stronger – the good news will triumph!
The light shines in the darkness: even for those shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. They were bad news – very bad news. Everyone despised shepherds: dirty, smelly, unable to keep the law. They kept away from ordinary society. When others looked at shepherds they saw bad news. In the middle of the dark night, the glory of the Lord shone around those shepherds, and the angel said: “Behold I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.” (Lk 2:10)
And to those wise men living far away in the East: night after night staring up into the night sky: what will the new year bring – good news or bad? And suddenly a new star shone out brightly – and they knew. This light, shining in the darkness would lead to the good news, and they left their homes and followed it, “till it came to rest over the place where the child was.” (Matt 2:99)
I wonder what 2011 has in store for you? Good news or bad? I can, I’m afraid, pretty well guarantee that the newspapers will mostly be bearers of bad news.
But the news is not just what we read in the papers. We are not simply passive recipients of news from ‘out there.’ We can make news. And today – this wonderful Christmas Day – we can each of us resolve to make good news this coming year. How would you make good news in your life, and in the lives of those around you? The newspapers can numb us into feeling it’s all so bad – and it’s all ‘out there.’ What can I do? But bringing light into a dark world begins with me!
Maybe each of us this evening at this Eucharist can think of at least one way – a real, practical, tangible way that I’m going to shed some light, bring some good news into the life of another. Is there someone that when I look at them I see bad news, perhaps written them off. Perhaps I need to change the way I look at them, and see them with God’s eyes – the eyes of love.
Is there some action I can do today, and things I can do in the coming year, that will bring good news to this world which God so loves.
It’s Christmas. We are here to celebrate with great joy the good news that God has given us his Son. Those wise men made a long and arduous journey to come to Christ. We have only to open our hearts and put out our hands to receive him tonight.
As you come to make your Christmas communion tonight, as you approach the crèche, alongside the shepherds and the wise men look with love and thanksgiving upon the Christ-Child, God’s gift to you. And then put out your hands to receive the one who looks on you with love – and who knows that you are very good news.
Open your heart to the Christ-Child, that he may abide in you, and strengthen you, so that you may be the bearer of good news to another.
We are here to celebrate – for the Light of Christ is more powerful that the darkest night.
“For the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.” And that is very good news.
May you all have a truly blessed and holy Christmas.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.