"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." -- Mark 1:1
Which Do You Want First: the Good News or the Bad News?
"Have you heard the good news of Jesus?" If someone approaches you with this question how do you respond? I would guess you would respond in one of two ways: 1) with a "Yes!", or 2) with an edging away toward the nearest path of escape. In either case, it doesn't seem like what we're calling "good news" is either good (in the second case) or news (in the first.)
Let's say we are in our house?
Bad News: Our house is in New Orleans.
Bad News: And there's a Katrina blowing,
Bad News: And the levy breaks and the water's rising higher and higher,
Bad News: And you and I, we're huddled in the attic, without food or water,
Bad News: And the water's reached us up here, and is threatening to go over the roof. And lo and behold?
Good News: Through the roof are coming rescue workers to take us out, onto a boat to a place where there is dry ground, and hot food, and the warmth of friendship and family are all around us.
That's the sense of the good news Mark is talking about. That's the kind of urgency and level of hope we're invoking in our Advent reflections and hopes. It's the difference between life and death, between desperation and fulfillment, between on the one hand, being completely forgotten and abandoned like the elderly in certain senior homes in New Orleans, left by their caretakers to die, and on the other hand, being saved, brought in to the light of life.
The thing about good news is that there has to be some bad news so that we will be able to recognize the good news when it arrives.
If things are cruising along for us, nothing too bad going on, everything's pretty cool, then what could possibly produce radically good news? The stock market is inching up again, and gas prices are inching down. That's pretty good news! You just got a good grade on a paper, but then you were expecting to get a good grade, because you worked pretty hard on it. But still, a good grade is pretty good news.
But this is not the kind of news that makes the difference between life and death. It's what we might call nice news.
But what we're waiting for in Advent is not nice news. It's good news. The proclamation of the coming of Jesus into our lives is not nice news, a pleasant thing to add onto an already pretty complete and together life. Jesus is the kind of good news that gives hope to those who recognize the condition we're in, people who know we're in over our heads. The bad news is all around us: from starving, impoverished millions, to the persistence of racism around the world, to the domination of violence in every corner of every city, to our own personal greed and vanity, and failure in some of our most cherished relationships. We would surely fall headlong into despair, if it were not for the good news: that the power of love around us and within us, above us and beneath us, can transform all of the bad news into good news, can move us from hatred and fear of the other, to recognizing that the other is part of the family.
This Advent, hear the call of the Lord of Love to open ourselves to the bad news which we often push aside as just a pure downer (don't bum me out during the holidays!) so that we may be given the grace to remember just how desperately we wait for signs of the good news in our midst. Amen!