By Mike Oldham
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)
Theologian Douglas John Hall has been challenging me to think more about theology and the gospel the church proclaims lately. His writings are challenging and inspiring. In the New Testament, the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον is translated as “gospel” or “good news.” He writes in his book, Waiting for Gospel, “To be good news, gospel must confront and do battle with bad news.” In the season of Advent, we anticipate the coming of Jesus (and the return of Jesus). At Christmas, we marvel at the Incarnate Word who came as a child.
As we look to a new year, I began pondering Hall’s words. What is the bad news that the good news Jesus brought confronts? I know it seems to be everywhere. But if we, the church, are messengers of good news, then we must state the bad news that we are addressing. In a world filled with terrorism and violence, we say, “We have the message of peace.” Peace not based on military might, but in the Messiah!
In a world of despair brought on by sexism, racism, poverty, and religious intolerance, “We have the message of a God who declares, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV)
For those who are imprisoned by their own hate, depression, doubt, and fear; for those who are blinded by prejudice and anger; we say, “Jesus declares, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” (Luke 4:18-19 NRSV)
As John Douglas Hall writes, “Gospel is always news! — and never just yesterday’s news. Moreover, it is always good news.”
We have the good news that “does battle with” today’s bad news. We have the message of hope and life that the world desperately needs. We have the good news that we ourselves need to desperately hear. We don’t have the good news just for shepherds 2000 years ago. We have good news for truck drivers and bankers. We have good news for those who are suffering with cancer and those who are physically healthy. We have good news for the homeless person and the family that just bought a McMansion. We have good news for the popular kids in schools as well as those who are being bullied.
Gospel speaks to the human condition of sinfulness, oppression, blindness, poverty, and captivity. It is a message of life and transformation. Our message must always be more than “come to church.” Our message must always be, “Come to Jesus.”
Lord, in 2017 and beyond, when I get overwhelmed by the bad news, remind me that you brought good news. Remind me not to be a messenger of fear, but a messenger of good news, of Gospel.
Northern Front Range, Southeast Colorado & New Mexico Clusters
Ministry & Mission Coach