The Beginning of the Good News (Advent 2B, 7 December 2014)

Reading
Mark 1.1–8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

That’s how the Gospel According to Mark starts.

Today, I want to look for a while at ‘good news’.

What’s good news? What’s bad news?

G and J were married yesterday in a wonderful service at St Andrews. I think we can agree that this is good news.

B died peacefully in her sleep on Friday. I think we can agree that this is not good news.

It’s news that saddens us. B was an exemplary Christian woman, one whom I had greatly admired for almost twenty years. She’d hate me saying that; but it’s part of why I feel sad right now.

So, it’s sad news that B has died. I certainly can’t say it’s good news. But there remains that wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

How do we hold to the Good News when there is sad news? I mean, sometimes the sad news is too much for us. We are just too overwhelmed by what happens. Those are the times we need the company of others—friends, family, or wise people who can listen to us and help absorb our pain. We need care. We may need to be held, both literally and figuratively.

It’s ok to be like that, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that your faith is weak. And there is still the Good News, abiding, constant, a shining light. You can in time recover your focus on the Good News.

Then there are those Christians who don’t allow themselves to feel sad. Christians shouldn’t be sad! they say to themselves. How can we be sad, when there is such Good News? Don’t we betray the Good News when we’re sad? So we keep on smiling even if all we really want to do is to hide away and weep.

You know, the ‘Good News of Jesus Christ’ entered a world of violence and power. A world in which people got sick and died. A world in which people’s hopes and dreams failed to materialise. A world very much like our own, in fact.

The Good News hasn’t taken away all sickness, death, crying and pain. Not yet, anyway.

Back in 1995, I was the Uniting Church representative at the memorial service which was held at the Mary St Synagogue for the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. His death was a terrible blow to Middle East peace; I reckon it’s an ongoing tragedy even now.

As we were filing out after the service, I heard one Jewish member of the synagogue say to another: ‘It’s almost enough to make you wish the Messiah would come now!’

Of course, we believe the Messiah has come, Jesus Messiah. But there is a Jewish objection to our belief, and it’s this: when the Messiah comes, they say, there will be an end to sickness, death, crying and pain. Yet here they are still! How can Jesus be the Messiah, when the world goes on as it did before?

The difference is that we live by faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The difference is that we live by hope that Jesus Messiah will one day bring an end to sickness, death, crying and pain.

In that sense, our hope and the Jewish hope are the same. And my hope is that they will recognise Messiah Jesus just because these things shall come to an end.

So, we’re not there yet! We have news that makes us feel happy and news that makes us feel sad.

But we live by faith, we live in hope. The Good News has broken into the world, and it is this:

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.

And that is true whatever else happens, whether we are glad or sad or even overwhelmed by the things that happen to us.

Our faith in the Good News sustains us. The Good News remains our firm foundation, and our hope for God’s new future.

So thanks be to God!

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