Most of the headlines we read, watch or hear tend to contain bad news: conflict, warfare, violence and atrocity; natural or human-made disasters; the cheating of leaders or the abuse of sexual power by public figures. All of these reflect the fragile nature of our world and humanity. We can easily be daily drawn into the worst of human life or the terrible traumas our world creates.
A more modern phenomena is so-called “fake news”: a strange form of mis-information, hoax or propaganda which spreads virus-like predominantly through social media. Motivations for the propagation of fake news appear very varied but often seem to be quite invidious.
However, good news can also hold a deep attraction for people of goodwill: the story of heroic bravery which has saved the life of another, or the person who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome a life-threatening condition; the person who makes profound sacrifices to transform the life of another, or the one who has finally been released from unjust captivity. Stories of hope and new life do occasionally pierce through the gloominess of most news.
Whilst living life as a parish priest in a community like Ilkley, one encounters the mix of this reality of daily life: sadness and joy; triumph and failure; death and new life. However, the immense possibilities for the creation of good are never far away through the simplest actions of care and compassion, love and concern, mercy and forgiveness.
At its heart is the good news of Christmas proclaimed first by the angels. Into an occupied land controlled by a violent ruler, Emmanuel gently crept in as a baby in a manger. Through the positive response of his mother, and the faithful understanding of her husband, God enters into all the undesirability of our world in the vulnerable form of a baby.
The good news here is that each of us is taken seriously. God desires us to be those unique, distinctive and beautiful people he has created us to be. Often we can fail even to recognise these potentialities in ourselves. However, the baby of Bethlehem is about helping us to re-discover that we can be different. In the smallest of things we can find beauty and glory. The helplessness and fragility of this new-born child incarnates that divine message.
I hope you have a truly happy Christmas and when you feel its tinsel and wrappings are over may you find renewed hope in the truth that Christmas is never over. However big seem the odds against it, the good news will win through “for the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Your parish priest