“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ . . .” Mark 1:1
It is always a bit of a challenge to read from the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John as Advent draws us closer to the birth of the Christ child because these two Gospels begin with Jesus as an adult. No nativity scenes in these two Gospels. But, there is still a beginning with great expectation and “Good News.”
During the 2017 California-Pacific Annual Conference, the Rev. Dr. John Cobb, Jr., was recognized for his years of ministry as one of the most influential Christian United Methodist Theologians of our time. John was my theology professor in seminary at the Claremont School of Theology. I went over to him and greeted him before he received his award, and I shared with him a memory. I said, “John, I still remember your retirement lecture.” John replied, “Really? That was some 30 years ago!” I said, “Yes, and your title was ‘When Will Jesus Be Good News Again?’” In his lecture John talked about how historically Jesus wasn’t always good news for some people. During the crusades, he wasn’t good news to the Muslim people. To many indigenous people, he was not good news when missionaries brought diseases that devastated tribes. To women rejected from ministry and leadership in the church, he was not all that good news in the early church and often today. As I reminded him of this talk, he smiled up at me from his seat and said. “You know I still believe Jesus is good news. It’s just all the bad things we attached to him I don’t like.”
I am thankful for John and his wisdom and his reminder. Jesus is good news, whether he arrives as an infant in a manger or a man coming to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Advent is indeed the “beginning of good news” as we start the new calendar of the Christian year — if we can just strip away all the unnecessary things that we have “attached” to Jesus. If we can just claim the core truth of what good news it is to know that our God, the loving creator has entered into this life with us to give us the Way forward with a vision of what this world can be if we will be the people God called us to be in Christ.
In Jesus Christ, the promise and power of unconditional love became real and alive. That’s good news! In Jesus Christ, the healing path of forgiveness and self-sacrificing love was laid before us and made possible to us. That is good news! In Jesus Christ, love conquered hate, light drove out darkness and truth dispelled falsehood. That’s good news!
Sometimes we humans seem to value that which is new more than something that is just still true. On this day of Advent, as we begin a new year, I am thankful to affirm that the story of the coming of Jesus Christ was good news in the beginning, and is still true today.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may my heart rejoice today in the good news that there is a love eternal and true in this world – Yours. Amen.
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
Dean of Cabinet