Friday, December 14, 2012

Good News of Great Joy: A Christmas Meditation

             One of the words the Bible uses to describe itself is the Greek word “euangelion.” Translated in English, this word means “good news,” as in the words of the angel, from in the gospel of Luke: “I bring you good news, of great joy.”

            Good news. It reminds me of the time many years ago, when Irene and I went to the hospital because the time had come for her to give birth to our first child. After a visit with the doctor, we were told, "not yet. Go for a long walk around the parking garage, and then come back." So we did. When we got back we were shown to the birthing room. Our doctor came in. I applied ice on Irene’s forehead, and counted, more ice and more counting. Finally, our son   William was born at 12:15 am. I returned home a few hours later, but couldn't sleep. So at three in the morning, I picked up the phone, and I called everyone I could think of--parents, grandparents, friends, siblings. I got them all out of bed, but it didn't matter.

            I had good news, and it wouldn't wait. The good news of the Christmas is like that—only more so.

            Years later, Irene and a friend of ours, Claudia, took their kids to a beach. Irene, William, and Claudia's son, David, were playing follow the leader a few yards from shore. Claudia watched from the beach. Irene would clap her hands and the two kids would clap their hands. Irene would jump and the kids would jump. The next thing Irene knew, Claudia was shouting at the top of her lungs and running as fast as she could through the knee-deep water roughly towards where Irene was standing. Terrified, Irene turned around and realized that William was nowhere to be seen. She frantically thrashed around in the water, but couldn't find him. Meanwhile, Claudia, who had seen everything from shore, reached a spot a few feet from Irene, reached down, and pulled William out from deep under the water, and rushed him to shore.

            William hacked and coughed and spit out a lot of water. He said, "Mom, it was dark, I couldn't find you. Where were you?" He had fallen into a lakebed pit that was over his head. Claudia saved his life. But once everyone was calm and sitting on shore again, Claudia said it all when she said to Irene, "You know, sometimes we receive our children twice."

And you can be sure that, with tears of joy and thanksgiving, we shared that good news, once more, with family, friends, and anyone who would listen. William was saved. The gospel is like that, joyful good news, except--more so. Because, as the angel said, this is not good news just for the few who know and love me or my son, but it is good news "for all the people."

            Good news. John the Baptist says, "The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And – in this child – all humankind will see God's salvation" (Luke 3:5,6). Good news. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, and to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Good news. Like the angels sang: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”


  1. When I was first introduced to the Christian faith in the CRC, I learned quickly that God chose only a few to save and the rest to punish in Hell forever. I have had a hard time loving God ever since. I think others have the same problem loving God, but just put the thoughts of hell out of their minds. But then you have to pretend to love God (this is done a lot in my opinion). Your thoughts are very encouraging to my faith and in helping me to love God. My former theology has really hurt my spiritual walk for a long time.

  2. Thanks Jim. I'm amazed at how once I started looking, I began to find much more scripture supporting a universal redemption than I ever remembered studying. I think in our tradition we have hundreds of years practice habitually ignoring texts that speak of the cosmic nature of redemption in favor of those that speak of judgment. Scripture isn't very consistent on this. In that case, I go for the grace side of the equation, rather than the judgment.


What do you think?