Good news of great joy
The glory of the Incarnation and the temporality of today’s headlines
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The danger in closely following the news and frequently commenting on the news is that we start to believe that the headlines give us the most important information. To be sure, we need Christians involved in the public square, Christians engaged in the battle of ideas, Christians committed to understanding the events of the day from a Christian perspective. If I didn’t believe in those things, I wouldn’t have started blogging 13 years ago, and I wouldn’t be writing these columns today. Quietism in the face of cultural upheaval is no virtue.
Paying attention to the news is salutary, as long as we don’t let it distort our sense of what the world is really like. The headlines tend to exaggerate the extent of disaster in the world and entices us to overreact to the 24-hours news cycle. Bad news travels faster than good news. Spectacular failure grips us more than steady faithfulness. The (seemingly) urgent stirs up our passions more than the (truly) important.
This means that a Christian approach to the news must never lose sight of the eternal in the midst of so much that is ephemeral. It is no pious platitude to be reminded that daily Bible reading is more important than the daily news. The sermon is more important than the Twitter scroll. The songs we sing on Sunday are more important than the chyron that screams at us every other day of the week.
The only truly Christian way to understand the news of today is to understand it in light of the news from 2,000 years ago. “Fear not,” the angel said, “for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And what was that good news of great joy? It was about a seeming irrelevance. Another baby in a nothing town born to two nobodies. But the angel knew what the world now knows: that the seeming irrelevance was the revelation of something heaven-crashing and earth-shattering. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). The Lion of Judah was ready to roar, even if at first he sounded strangely like a baby crying.
Years ago, I read a book called Everything Must Change. It wasn’t a good book, and it wasn’t a good title. A better title would have been: Everything Has Changed. In our zeal to accomplish great things—justice things, kingdom things, gospel things—let us not forget the far greater things that have already been accomplished. Christmas will never be, for us, good news of great joy unless it is good news every day of the year. The mystery of the incarnation is that the eternal one was born, that the Creator came into the world through one of his creatures, that the Ancient of Days walked among us in the fullness of time. Seems like kind of a big deal.
The biggest news of 2021 is not inflation, Omicron, or Adele’s new album. The biggest news is not Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, or Joe Rogan. The biggest news is not what Harry and Meghan said to Oprah or what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The biggest news of this past year is that Jesus is still Lord. The tomb is still empty. And Christ is still coming again. The Snake Crusher has arrived (Genesis 3:15). The star of Jacob has shone (Numbers 24:17). The stump of Jesse has bloomed (Isaiah 11:1). The sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its wings (Malachi 4:2). The one whom Simeon blessed and Anna longed to see can finally be seen. Born of a virgin in the armpit of the Roman Empire, the little child whose coming forth was from of old, from ancient days, is King of kings and our Prince of Peace.
The world is not the same. The news is not the same. And Christians, by God’s grace, are not the same either.
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