parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

January 2018

The Gift of Good News

in Epiphany and Beyond

 

The Christian season of Epiphany celebrates the “shining forth”, or revelation, of God to humankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a season that concludes the twelve days of the Christmas season. Epiphany invites reflection on and commitment to the ways in which we may discern and join God in the work of gifting; the gifting of good news into our relationships, our lives and our world.

 

Although a lot of emphasis over the past weeks has been on buying or making gifts, giving gifts and receiving gifts, we know that gift-giving and receiving ought to be an ongoing thing. I am not suggesting that the Christmas frenzy be an all year round preoccupation. Rather I am talking about a particular way of perceiving and participating in the variety of ways in which God’s gift-giving is manifest.

 

A few years ago I received a very special Christmas card which someone chose very deliberately and underlined various words for emphasis. It said:

                   The best gifts aren’t found in pretty paper under the tree…

                    I can’t unwrap a box of your happy laughter or welcoming smiles.

                   And your steady shoulder and helping hands don’t need fancy ribbons or sparkly bows.

                   Thank you for the gifts of your friendship.

 

How did you know they’d be just what I needed.

 

In the faithful stewarding of our personalities, our faith, our awareness, our willingness to be instruments of God, we can be such profound gifts to others and to the world. These gifts are received as “good news” by others. In the Christmas season we heard the announcement: “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” As we intentionally extend the good news of Jesus’ life, teaching, love, justice, death and resurrection in our daily lives and vocations, good news will abound; gifting will be on offer.

 

In the Christmas stories we read last month we heard of the pain and the wrong and the violence and the marginalization meted out to the vulnerable ones. As it was then, so it continues to be now in our own day. So where are we to find good news in Herod’s slaughter of the “innocents”? Male children under two years of age murdered in a desperate maneuver to try and assassinate Jesus (Matthew 2:16). Where do we find the good news in a houseful of guests all unwilling to give up their beds for a teenage girl just looking for a clean and safe place to have her baby? Where do we find the good news in the midst of an itinerant band of sheep-herders, who had no home, were considered the dregs of society and whose testimony in court was de facto inadmissible?

 

Well, there is good news to be found. In commenting on Matthew’s Christmas story of barbarity and dislocation (Jesus’ family fleeing as refugees to Egypt), commentator Dr. Thomas Long writes:

 

          The message is not that God summons evil to accomplish divine purposes, but that the scripture knows the tragic human destruction woven into the fabric of history and that not even evil is its most catastrophic form, evil as cold and merciless as the murderer of innocent children, can destroy God’s ability to save. [commentary on Matthew]

 

God’s ability to save has come in Jesus the Christ, and by the power of God’s Spirit continues to come through the faith and witness of those who serve God’s purposes. These are living gifts of good news and redemption in the world. As a community of faith, this is what we are about. As a fire exists for burning, so the Church exists for God’s Mission of Love, in all of its holy and world-mending expressions. For God so loved the world that God gave...God gave God’s self for the saving and mending of the world.

 

There is an old Eagles’ song called Hole in the World and some of the lyrics go like this:

                        “There’s a hole in the world tonight. There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow.

                     There’s a hole in the world tonight. Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.”

 

To all of my fellow “gifts of the good news”, by God’s grace and power “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Let us in small and large ways spend lives and prayers and faith and service as those willing to give gifts and receive gifts of God’s good news.

 

A Blessed New Year to us all

 

Anthony