If we are honest with ourselves, if given a choice between good news and bad news, we would want to hear the good news, but only if there is bad news to go with it. And given a choice between good news and bad news, we'll take the bad news every time.
People often asked veteran broadcaster, Paul Harvey, "Paul, why don't journalists and broadcasters emphasize more good news instead of tragedy, destruction, discord and dissent?" Harvey's own network once tried broadcasting a program devoted solely to good news. The program survived 13 weeks. We say we want good news, but we won't buy it. In Sacramento, California, a tabloid called Good News Paper printed nothing else. It lasted 36 months before it went bankrupt. A similar Indiana tabloid fared even worse -- the publishers had to give it away. Evidently, the good news people say they want is news they just won't buy.
For this reason the Christmas story seems so disconnected. Let's face it: Good news can be boring. God is love. Mary is his favored one. Joseph is a righteous man. Jesus is such a sweet little baby. We've heard the story so often, and we've seen the pageant so many times. It just doesn't get the adrenaline flowing any more.
But hold on: There's a surprise to be found in the "Magnificat" from the first chapter of Luke. This passage is an explosion of free verse by Mary -- a young woman who could have thought she was getting some bad news when the angel arrived and said, "Greetings!" But she quickly saw the good news in Gabriel's announcement and realized how truly awesome it was. In the "Magnificat," she does her part to make sure it sells -- she does it by itemizing the noisy good news about her Good News God.
God taps Nazareth Nobody. "My soul magnifies the Lord," rejoices little Mary, "and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant" (1:46-48). It is truly surprising and newsworthy that God chose a poor Galilean girl to become the mother of Jesus the Christ and the most significant woman in all of Holy Scripture.
"Mother of God," "Heavenly nurse," "Help of the helpless" and "Dispensatrix of all grace" are just some of her names. This is not bad from an insignificant maiden from Nazareth. Her selection by God should give hope to any of us who are feeling trapped in small roles or small jobs or small towns. The great truth of Mary's story is that God uses the small to lead the big, the weak to teach the strong, and the ordinary to carry out the extraordinary. All we need to do is to remember that it is availability and not ability that is key, and to say, along with Mary, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word"
And here's some more noisy news: 2000-year-old Promise Kept. "He has helped his servant Israel," Mary notes, "in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever" (1:54-55). Long before men began gathering in sports stadiums to hear talks and worship, long before guys met in small groups on a weekly basis to support each other in their struggles and commitments, long before a modern men's movement led by a college football coach existed, there was a "Promise Keeper" -- the Lord God.
God kept his promises to Israel, from the time of Abraham to the time of Mary, and he keeps his promises today. The greatest sign of his promise-keeping was the birth of his son Jesus Christ: "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse," said God through the prophet Isaiah, "and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (11:1-2). He'll grow up to judge the poor with righteousness and kill the wicked with the breath of his lips. His kingdom will be a peaceful one, marked by righteousness and faithfulness and the knowledge of the Lord.
This is news -- news of surprising selections, unexpected elevations and the preservation of ancient promises. God chooses those who are not the best of paper but are the most willing to hearken and be receptive to God's call. Mary's selection as the most of Christ is indeed awesome news, but better yet ... it's good news. It's the good news that God has come to earth in Jesus Christ, to call us to himself and to point us toward his just and everlasting kingdom.
Follow Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pastorbilljr