Chaplain’s Corner: LXXXII

“Good News”

Imagine that you have a child who is battling cancer.  It’s as if a shadow has fallen over your life. Everything seems surreal.  It’s hard to eat or sleep.  Little things that used to bring joy now seem meaningless.

As you sit in a hospital waiting room a friend offers advice.  He’s just read about a new experimental therapy.  Perhaps you should give it a try.  And some people are having great luck reducing pain with hypnosis.  And have you tried megavitamins?  At that moment your child’s surgeon enters the room.  She takes your hand.  “The surgery went far better than we imagined.  We have every reason to believe the cancer is gone.  YOUR CHILD IS GOING TO LIVE.”

Moments like that change your life forever.

As author and Pastor Tim Keller points out in his book Hidden Christmas, there’s a world of difference between good advice and good news.  Many people think of Christianity as a list of heavenly suggestions.  Jesus is a life coach who offers take- it-or-leave-it recommendations for finding happiness and meaning.

But from the very beginning the Jesus story isn’t advice. It’s news.  It’s not the recitation of a few things that you ought to try to make happen, but the announcement of something that God has already made happen.

Consider the words of the Angel of the Lord-backed up by a “great company of heavenly host”-to the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem:  “Do not be afraid.  I bring you Good News that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11)

It’s worth pausing to note that there are several kinds of angels described in Scripture-supernatural beings who exist to serve God.  There are Seraphim and Cherubim.  And there are other verses in the Old and New Testaments that describe “ordinary angels.”  What do “ordinary angels” do and look like?  Many people are surprised to learn that angels, as portrayed in the Bible, do not have wings.  Most appear as young men.  They occasionally assist God’s people-helping Lot and his family hightail it out of Sodom in the book of Genesis, and breaking Peter out of Jail in the Book of Acts.

But their chief task is embodied in their name.  Angelos is the Greek word for “messenger.”  An angel’s job is to bring news from God.  In the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke angels appear six times.  They almost always inspire terror.

You may have already have unknowingly been in the presence of one of God’s supernatural messengers, as suggested by Hebrews 13:2:  “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

So why don’t we get to experience extraordinary angelic press conferences like those associated with Jesus’ birth?  The answer is that God’s good news, declared twenty centuries ago by his supernatural messengers hasn’t changed. Anyone afflicted by hopelessness, fear or despair doesn’t need good advice.  There’s more than enough of that going around already.  But all of us hunger for moments in which we truly grasp that God has already accomplished everything we need in order to be the people God has called us to be.

Moments like that change your life forever.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain