Have you heard the news? – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

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.


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  1. Muriel Akam on January 30, 2016 at 12:06

    In these days at the end of January it is so lovely to have encouraging words. There is goodness , kindness and love in the world. Let us have more and hear more of these acts of kindness and love.

  2. Lucy Follk Nading on January 29, 2016 at 11:38

    Good morning to all the Brothers at SSJE,

    I have loved reading a word from each of you across the past year, ever since I participated in the Lenten discipline, “Stop, Pray, Work, Play, Love,” which you provided last year. I was wondering if you all were going to provide a Lenten study for this year? I do hope and pray that you will.
    Thank you for being who you are in this cruel world of ours, and steadfastly providing insightful knowledge and encouragement along our journey with Christ, further enriching my joy in the LORD!

    Blessings in the name of Jesus,

    Lucy Folk Nading

    • Reviewer on January 29, 2016 at 11:57

      Hello Lucy,

      Thank you for your kind words. There will indeed be a Lenten study offered this year and it will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 10. It will be similar to previous years in that various brothers will offer short video clips daily and a meditation question will follow. The theme this year is “Growing A Rule of Life” and the Brothers are delighted to have partnered with the Virginia Theological Seminary to produce the series. You can learn more about the series by clicking this link: https://ssje.org/ssje/growrule/

  3. Christina McKerrow on January 29, 2016 at 07:26

    Dear Brother Tristram: More than five years on since your good sermon, and our world is still in turmoil. If anything, it seems to be worse. I have more-or-less given up listening to the news and, when I have heard to it, I say to myself, ‘Can they not just find one positive thing to send across the airwaves.?’
    The good things around us get swamped, but let me tell you about some good news: a few churches have grouped together and have already brought five Syrian families to our city; and the church I attend welcomed our first family a week ago. The cynic might say, ‘A drop in the bucket.’ but we MUST remember that we have all been immigrants/refugees at one time or another. Some more recently than others (who have five generations behind them.) Let us recall that Mary, Joseph and their baby, Jesus, fled to Egypt. God help us all. Christina

  4. John Gishe on December 25, 2014 at 11:32

    I live in California. but discovered SSJE during lent 2014 via Forward Day By Day. What a gift, being able to read daily from the archive of the spiritual reflections of this community! Thank you all and Merry Christmas!

  5. Mino Sullivan on January 3, 2014 at 08:47

    Thank you Geoffrey for your wonderful call to action!

    What good news can each of us bring to someone today? What light can we share with others as we move through our day? Just imagine how we could change the world if we asked ourselves this question on waking up each morning, and then spent our day answering it through compassionate listening, encouraging supportive words and helpful actions. How we could change ourselves and the world!

  6. Violet on April 26, 2013 at 07:46

    I think of when my one year old grandson naps. I lie next to him and just watch him breathing with his soft baby curls and skin a beautiful coffe colored blend of my son an daughter-in-law…and my heart bursts with love.
    This is how I imagine God looking at God’s beloved here on earth.

  7. Pam on December 30, 2012 at 09:00

    1 John 2:21 says, “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it.” I know the truth that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, “does not overcome it, will not overcome it. I needed your reminding me though. It’s way too easy for me to fall into despair about what was wrong about my childhood and many years since then and not concentrate on the victory that God has given me through his grace. The light of the Holy Spirit does shine through me, not because of anything I’ve done but because of what God has done, because of who God is. I needed reminding. Thank you.

  8. Allene Taylor on December 30, 2012 at 07:07

    Br. Geoffrey: This early morning, Dec. 30th, your words about bad news and God’s enduring love especially touch my heart. This is the third Christmas since my husband’s death; particularly hard to bear.
    Thank you for these comforting thoughts.

  9. Susan Moore on December 30, 2012 at 06:56

    Thank you for these wise words. I need to be more loving and less critical of my adult children. They seem to make decisions that I would not make, but that does not mean that they are bad. I will love them more and be less judging of them. God is at work in them as well as in me. Thank you for your good words.

    • Ruth West on December 25, 2014 at 10:27

      I understand Susan’s comment about her adult children. As I read your good Christmas message, I was given a prompting by the Holy Spirit to just let them know that God loves them and I love them. “Love came down at Christmas.” That is the point of it all and the message I need to show forth as a reflection of His love and light. Thank you.

  10. Cathy Simmering on January 2, 2011 at 08:33

    Thank you for the inspiring and hopeful words to begin the new year.

  11. Fred Rose on December 30, 2010 at 21:30

    Br. Geoffrey- This was amazing. We are indeed inundated by a deluge of bad news. Sadly, it’s what sells and grabs our attention. Good news is so unexpected these days. Instead, we have more crime, higher bills, bad traffic, etc. Thank you for reminding us of the greatest news ever– the Incarnation. God’s amazing love made flesh. Christ is a light for us all. Amen!

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