When was there ever GOOD news?
For the newspapers, good news is BAD news – that’s what sells papers. And there is lots of bad news: the financial crisis; the council cuts; people being made redundant and losing their jobs; the benefit changes coming in; pay-day loans getting people into debt; the murder of 26 women and children in a school in America; another death in Afghanistan. Lots of bad news in our world.
And then there’s the personal bad news: someone you know and care about is seriously ill; someone else you love passes away; and then there’s the broken relationship and everyone’s devastated; another friend has had an accident and a neighbour has been a victim of crime. Lots of bad news in our lives.
And when we come here to church to celebrate Christmas, we bring with us a whole bundle of sadness, loss, hurt, regret, worry, lots of dark feelings. And what do we get told?
How can there be good news!
The good news is that God cares. God knows when we are suffering and sad. And it matters to God. God has promised comfort to those who are hurt, peace to those who are troubled and in conflict; forgiveness to those who are wounded; healing and salvation to those who are broken.
God cares personally for you and for me. Each individual is precious to God, whether they get to church every week or not, whether they believe in the right things or do the right things or say the right things. Or not. God loves us just for being who we are.
And because he loves us and he could see that everyone was troubled by sin and suffering, he came to be with us. God let go of being God, with all the glory and power and the status, in order to be born as a baby in a peasant home in Bethlehem. So there he was, lying in a manger, dependent on a poor family for food and shelter, health and safety.
And suddenly everything changed around him.
The birth of a baby is good news any way. Mostly, it is good news. And this was a good news baby. God’s son born into an iron-age family. God become human to live alongside us, to experience all the troubles that people have known since time immemorial
And for why?
Because of love. Because God who made us loved us so much, and God was hurt when we were hurting and when we hurt each other, because God suffered when we were in pain. And he wanted to bring his love to us directly. That’s why. It meant that he came to know from the inside what it means to be human.
And what he wanted us to know, personally, was that he loves us. It was like he couldn’t tell us enough. He had to prove it. And this was God’s way.
By tradition, we think of this baby being born in the night. Actually, we don’t know what time of day it was. But in God-speak, the baby was born in the darkness, and the baby brought light into the darkness, and the baby was light, THE light. And that darkness is all our darknesses rolled into one: the darkness of pain, the darkness of despair, the darkness of mental anguish, the darkness that all that bad news brings with it.
And the light kindled by that baby born in Bethlehem made a difference. The darkness thinned out like it does when a new day is dawning. There was hope, there was joy, there was faith, there was love. All these are signs of the light. You know yourselves when love is genuine. That’s when the light shines.
So we come here each year to remember the birth of the God-baby, to relive that birth, to turn again to the light. And we bring all our troubles, and we lay them at the manger, knowing that God cares. We don’t bring to God just the good bits of our lives, the happy times and the acts of love and care. God wants all of us, even the darkness, so in faith, we bring them to God this night, this holy night.
And if you have come here tonight with no troubles at all, no darkness, but full of joy, then God bless you for it. Rejoice in the Good News! Live in the light! Take the light home with you and share it around.
You came in here out of the darkness and you stepped into light: the light of candles, the electric light of the church, the tree lights, and the lights of paper stars, but also the light of Jesus, who comes to us in this annual celebration of his birth and in the holy meal of the church. In the bread and wine of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Mass, he comes to us in a very special way. That’s how close he is to us, that he nurtures us in this holy food. He feeds us and keeps us going; that’s how he keeps us in his light.
A child is born.
Not just any child.
This is God’s child.
Born 2,000 years ago, give or take.
Born again tonight. Here in this church. Here in your hearts.
Open the doors and let him in.
He brings the light into your life.
He is here to stay.
It’s going to be all right.