For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The first week of advent is the week of Hope, and what gives us that hope is found in this verse of scripture. This is not only good news but it’s the best news the world has ever received. God loves us and he wants us to be with him. It’s the message of Christmas all wrapped up in one verse.
For the next three weeks, the Christian world will hear a lot about Mary and Joseph and angels and a baby sent by God. There will be talk of wise men and a star and a stable in a tiny town called Bethlehem. Scholars will continue their debate about the actual birth date of the savior – December? April? And Advent candles will be lit in churches all over the world until Christmas Day when the Christ candle will shine. It’s all a part of the Christmas scene. I refuse to even address the Santa issue. What I want to talk about today is News – Good News. The Best News the world has ever received.
We all get news every day – news from family and friends – news of the world going on around us – news that can come as a surprise or be the culmination of an anticipated event. Sometimes, we have to wait, wondering if the news will be good or…not so much. Last week I sat in a children’s hospital with my daughter and son-in-law, waiting for news of my youngest grandson’s test results. Was his strange and inappropriate behavior caused by something wrong in his brain? Was there some disease lurking in his blood? We breathed sighs of relief as results – news – came back: CAT scan and MRI normal, blood work normal, EEG normal.
But then, the doctor came to sit and talk to us about the major hearing test, the ABR. I think that stands for auditory brain response. It’s a hearing test that requires anesthesia. This time the news was not good. Total loss in one ear, 50% in the other. We’re about to learn more than we ever wanted to know about hearing aids – hearing aids for a five year old. After a few tears were shed, we caught our breath and assessed the situation. OK…the bad news is, Nathaniel is hearing impaired. The good news is – because of all the tests – we know he’s otherwise healthy! Just as ornery and quirky and funny as ever. And observant! Yesterday he and I got into my car to go meet his mother for another round of doctor stuff at the children’s clinic downtown. Driving in Jacksonville scares the daylights out of me so I was a bit nervous as I backed out of the driveway. From the back seat on the other side of the car came his observation: that arrow is pointing that way and that means we need gas! I said What? And checked the gas guage. He was right! That little ride could have ended badly.
As we sat and talked one evening, he was going over the list of the months of the year…October, November, December…and how many more sleeps is it until Christmas? 25. So he counted to 25. And then he asked, “Mimi, why do we have Christmas every year?” I gave him a shallow, easy answer – because December 25 comes around once a year. The conversation went on to other things but as I pondered later I thought – that’s not good enough. We have Christmas so that at least once a year the world is reminded of the good news of God’s love for us. Even people who don’t know Jesus know Christmas and the hope is that somewhere, somehow through a story or a carol they will come to know.
We wait so often for news…good news or bad news – and news that can change from moment to moment. Earthly news can bring us great joy or plunge us to the depths of despair.
But the best news of all is that the good news that came to earth that night so long ago never changes. It trumps all the other news we get. It’s the solid rock that we stand on in an ever changing, crazy, scary, dirty, materialistic world. This news never changes:
GOD…SO LOVED…THAT HE GAVE!
And we can count on it forever and all eternity. We call it Advent…and we call it Hope.
My hope for you is that you know the assurance of this Hope in your life today.