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Bad News and Good News, December 8, 2017

Bad News and Good News

Rev. Yme Woensdregt

Do you remember the old joke about good news and bad news? Well, I have some bad news and some good news for you.

Let me give you the bad news first. I’m pretty sure you already know the bad news I’m about to deliver. Unfortunately, many people in our society think that this is not bad news, but good news. Here it is. Ready?

Oh, ya better watch out, ya better not cry,

      ya better not pout, I’m telling you why:

            Santa Claus is coming to town.

 He’s making a list and checking it twice,

      gonna find out who’s naughty and nice:

            Santa Claus is coming to town.

 He sees you when you’re sleeping;

      he knows when you’re awake;

            he knows if you’ve been bad or good,

                  so be good for goodness’ sake.

 Oh ya better watch out, ya better not cry,

      ya better not pout, I’m telling you why:

            Santa Claus is coming to town.

Can you imagine any worse news than that? Someone making a list? Checking it twice? Could you measure up? Someone checking up on us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when we’re sleeping, when we’re awake, no matter what we’re doing.

It’s like the old song by The Police—“Every breath you take, every move you make every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.” It’s not really a love song. It’s the song of a stalker.

The same with this Christmas song. Santa knows everything you do … just like Big Brother. He decides to reward or punish us on the basis of how we have behaved. Doesn’t that scare you?

The song warns us from the very beginning that this is bad news. It begins, “You better watch out.” I love what the famous theologian Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) says: “I’m having a lot of holiday stress — deep down, I doubt my greed for presents can overcome my desire to misbehave.” It’s bad news. If the gift depends on whether I’ve been able to toe the line, I’m never going to get it.

Now let me give you the good news. It comes from Luke’s gospel: “Do not be afraid; for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is good news for the world. It is good news about wholeness and grace and compassion and justice and peace. God’s news is not punishment or reward based on how we behave. God’s gift is given to all people. It doesn’t depend on us. It depends on the grace and generosity of our God, who loves to give. God’s good news embraces all people; it heals and restores us. It is a vision of peace and well–being for all people.

Don’t be afraid. That’s the good news of Advent and Christmas. Come to me, and do not be anxious. A Saviour is born, who will take your fears away and make you whole; who will forgive us and set all things right; who will mend our broken souls, strengthening us and setting us free from everything that tries to enslave us.

I’m writing this partly “tongue–in–cheek” of course. But it’s also half–serious. I read recently that “both faith and fear require belief in something you can’t see: pick one.”

When I get lost in the daily reminders of hate, ignorance, violence and greed, then the fear takes hold. When I ground myself in the universe’s deep assurance of renewal and rebirth, I am set free to see the kindness in everyday acts, the persistence of resistance against divisions, the inspiration of creativity in many forms.

The good news of Christian faith is that we don’t gotta “watch out”. We can rest in the embracing love of God. God is coming, but not with a list to check up on us, not with a list to see if we’ve been bad or good, not with a list to check off whether we will be healed or zapped. God is coming with love which casts fear away. God is coming to heal our lives. God is coming to forgive our sin and embrace us in love. God is coming to ease our anxiety and wash away our despair.

Do not be afraid! This is good news of great joy — to you, to me, and to all the world. Don’t be afraid. To us poor, fearful, anxious people, God is coming. Don’t be afraid.