Most days, I get my main news update listening to radio 4’s PM in the car while traveling back from work. Much better, more varied and balanced than some of the other negative news coverage elsewhere that seems to be focused on bringing out disagreement – in my opinion. The main presenter has recently changed to Evan Davis, and on one of his earliest programmes there was a spot looking particularly at “good news” stories, often ignored or forgotten by most news programmes.
But what constitutes Good News? The answer will often depend on your point of view. In the current discord over Brexit the suggestion of a new referendum might be seen as good news by half the population, and a seriously bad idea by the other half. And a no deal scenario would be both welcomed and deplored by different groups.
Christmas is also a time of good news. The angel bought a message to the shepherds in a field near Bethlehem saying
I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
(Luke 2:10, NLT)
But what is the good news of Christmas? Again you will probably get different answers, depending on who you ask.
The obvious place to start in looking for an answer would be what the angel goes on to say, describing Jesus as “the saviour”. In a similar vane, Simeon a few verses later holds the young Jesus in his arms and praises God saying “I have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all people.” In Matthew’s account we see this explained a bit more when the angel appears to Joseph and says “you are to name him Jesus for he will save people from their sins.” This all tells us about how, through Jesus, we can be saved from our sins – the fact that we mess up, get it wrong, fail to live as we know we should – and that this sin had consequences, most significantly in that it brings a separation, an alienation, between ourselves and God our maker. For all who are weighed down with guilt, an awareness of their failures, or a longing to know God, this is truly good news.
Or we can look at the verses from Isaiah which Jesus quotes as he later talks about his ministry,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.
(Luke 4:18-19, NLT)
We see this fulfilled in Jesus’ life – the blind are healed and can see, those captive to evil spirits are freed, Jesus brings the good news of God’s kingdom to the poor and marginalised. God’s concern for the oppressed and marginalised is clear throughout. For those in society who are hard done by or pushed to the margins there is good news as they realise that God sees and does not just stand idly by.
The good news of Jesus Christ encompasses both these messages and more. But really the good news is more than just a good message, more even than a whole set of great messages, some of which will be very relevant to the hearer, and others less obviously so. We go back to the angel’s message, that the Messiah, the Lord had been born. The good news is ultimately tied up in a person, God’s son, Immanuel – God with us.
The greatest news is not a great story, philosophy, message, idea. Is not tied up in a blog post, however well or badly it may try and put across that message. The good news is Jesus.