4th Sunday in Advent in Kentucky
So, where’s all that “good news of great joy” we sing about at Christmas? Where’s any good news amid headlines about a persistent pandemic and the “big lie” that continues to be promoted by a former President and his followers? Where’s the “light that shines in the darkness” in the dark places in our hearts and souls? Specifically, where’s the good news for people whose lives have been ravaged by the tornados that torn their devastating path across the midsection of our country?
If you’re looking for some good news, here’s some!
I don’t know Joey Reed personally, but we are inextricably connected as fellow pastors in The United Methodist Church. If you missed his story on CBS News, I encourage you to watch it here. He faces the horrendous immensity of the loss in his life and community with relentless faith and practical hope.
Good News at the Preschool
It’s hard to beat the way pre-school children announce the good news with angels in tinsel halos, shepherds in bathrobes, and wise men in imaginary crowns, particularly if one of those wise men was your three-year-old (now 16-year-old) grandson!
The exhausted teachers were clearly ready for their Christmas break. They tried to keep things in order, but the production had its full share of children roaming around aimlessly with halos dangling precariously on angels’ heads and cardboard crowns slipping down in front of wise men’s faces.
Mary got distracted when she noticed that the blanket around the plastic baby had come undone. Oblivious to anything else that was going on, she picked up the baby by one arm while she spread blanket out on the floor, laid the baby down, and wrapped the blanket perfectly around it. No baby was ever more lovingly swaddled than this one! Then she placed the baby on her shoulder as if he needed a good burping and rocked him while the rest of the children sang:
Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.
For her, that plastic baby was might as well have been the real one, born in flesh and blood and in need of a good burping in Bethlehem.
My daughter, however, was not the only parent who wiped a tear from her eye when Shelby, the five-year-old angel whose father and uncle had recently been killed in an automobile accident, announced the news to the wiggling shepherds with all of the gusto a pre-school girl could muster, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy. To you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
And that’s just how real this news is.
The good news of great joy is proclaimed in a world where pre-school children sometimes lose their fathers in car crashes and families sometimes lose their homes in a tornado. The angels sing “peace on earth and goodwill to all” in a world where Herod still reigns, where powerful nations still believe that violence can result in peace, where manipulative politicians spread lies and call it news, where racism still rears its ugly head, and where love still gets nailed to a cross.
The Savior is born in a world where every last one of us is like those confused, disoriented shepherds who desperately need a Savior.
Advent began with the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, shouting at God, “Why don’t you tear open the heavens and come down?” (Isaiah 64:1) And who among us, if we tell the truth, has not wanted to shout, “Why don’t you get down here and do something about the mess we’ve made of things?”
At the manger in Bethlehem we see the astonishing way God answered that plea with Isaiah’s own words, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given.” It’s why we sing:
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Now, that’s good news!
Meanwhile, Back in Kentucky…
You and I can share the good news by giving generously to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, where 100% of every dollar designated for a specific project goes directly to that need. You’ll find more information on how Florida United Methodists are responding and how to give here.
May the good news of great joy be born anew in each of our lives this Christmas!
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Immanuel!