Your Response to the Year in Review was the Good News — Tracey DePasquale
We are in a season of competing news – maybe more so this year than others we recall. As 2017 draws to a close, we are bombarded with those year-in-review highlights of news we would rather not have to look at again: Hurricanes and wildfires of historic proportions, racist rants and deadly confrontations, nuclear threats, mass shootings, election investigations, sexual harassment, growing economic inequity and an ongoing opioid epidemic at home, the slaughter of innocent children abroad and the worst refugee crisis in world history. We witness all this as we watch governments buckling under the weight of partisanship, incivility, and paralyzing fear, which the powerful stoke to serve their own ends.
Into this we proclaim the good news of Christmas: Emmanuel! God is with us! God does not turn away, but enters this world to heal and redeem it out of love. “Fear not,” the angels say when proclaiming this great news – to Mary, to Joseph, and to poor shepherds who become the first witnesses of this new and marvelous thing that God was — and still is — doing among us.
On Dec. 31, we hear the story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple and the prophetic accounts of aging Simeon and long-widowed Anna about what this babe’s arrival means for the world. At his presentation, Mary and Joseph bring two turtledoves, the sacrifice of the poor. As Luke describes, Anna and Simeon give thanks to God and rejoice at beholding the long-awaited savior who will not only redeem Israel, but reveal the glory of God to all nations. “Master, you are dismissing your servant in peace,” says Simeon, who can face death unafraid because God has kept his promise, allowing him to see the Messiah before he dies. Simeon blesses the family and warns Mary that this child is destined “for the falling and rising of many in Israel” and to be a sign that will be opposed.
She already knows, for Simeon’s song echoes her own, found in Luke 1:
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
“He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.”
We still sing Simeon’s Song, the Nunc Dimittis, after encountering Christ in the Eucharist, before being blessed and sent into the world to encounter him again there. We go as people who know that to follow Christ is to be opposed by those who would use their power to withhold God’s blessings. We go together as people who have been told, “Fear not.”
As we are gathered and sent in worship on this New Year’s Eve, take along a piece of news from LAMPa that you might have missed: In 2017, the urgency of the world’s need has been met by increasing urgency of discipleship. People of faith are striving to heal community and congregational relationships broken by the rhetoric of division. Growing numbers of disciples who may find themselves on different points in the political spectrum or different sides of the aisle have been reaching out to the world together through LAMPa because they want to bear public witness to what the angels proclaimed. They want to speak and act, not out of partisanship or ideology, but because they have seen God’s transforming love for the world in Christ Jesus. That is good news.
As the year closes, Christmas continues. Bear it into this needy world. Share the good news. Fear not.
Go in peace. Remember the poor.
Thanks be to God.
Tracey DePasquale is Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, and, as it so happens, a former journalist.