“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!’”– Psalm 96:10, NRSV
The scripture readings during the season of Advent often come from Old Testament prophets or psalms that describe deeply troubled times. Oddly enough, that resonates deeply with me as good news this year, as Christmas draws near. God does not come to earth in Jesus because things are so nice and pleasant that God wants to come and enjoy the comfort. Far from it! Jesus comes into a deeply troubled world, in the midst of broken spirits, fearful hearts, and conflicting powers. Behind the familiar words of the Nativity passages we read at Christmas are troubled times. Jesus comes to save a broken world, to bring forgiveness to a sin-sick world, and to offer hope to despairing lives.
2019 has been a troubling year, in many ways. It has been one of the most challenging years of my ministry in the United Methodist Church. In our nation, we find political, economic, social tensions coalescing to create tensions that are pulling apart the fabric of our national life. Sociologists report that participation in organized religion across our culture continues to decline, creating challenges for every local church and pastor. Conflicts around race, gender, class, and LBGTQ inclusion, as well as religious toleration across faith traditions, continue to plague our common life. To be a people of Good News can seem counterintuitive, given all the other news we are immersed in.
Nevertheless, Good News we bring! Joy to the world! The Lord is come! In fact, it is precisely for just such a world as this that this Good News is designed. God seems to shine most brightly when the shadows are deepest. The Christmas celebrations this year should be all the more heart-felt because the need for a Savior becomes more obvious as the troubles mount.
So, in spite of all the bad news, I want to extend to you and yours, to one and to all, blessings of great joy! “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people.” (Luke 2:11-14, NRSV) Rejoice in this precious gift, the One who is our hope and our salvation. God has reached deep into the heart of everlasting love and has given us the Gift who is the source of all the gifts that matter most. We are blessed to receive Jesus, and to be ambassadors of His reconciling grace for all.