St Stephen Lewisham

Christmas Day 2009

Have I got N.E.W.S for you!

Somebody called A.P Herbert once wrote a poem which he called ‘News: A Ballad for Breakfast-Time. One of the verses goes something like the following.

There’s not very much in the paper,

But what’s in the paper is bad,

A pop-star has married a draper

An aeroplane’s crashed at Baghdad

A girl has been cruelly battered,

She was battered to death with a bat,

The police forces say that it points to foul play,

And what do you think of that!

News! News! It gives you the blues

Slaughters of daughters (and all the clues!)

But I wouldn’t lose my bit of bad news

On a mouldy Monday morning.

People sometimes ask the rather silly question as to why the papers don’t print some good news for a change. The answer is that the sort of ‘good news’ they are thinking of usually isn’t news at all – in the sense of being something ‘new’, and therefore nobody would want to buy a newspaper. If, for example, the headline in the Daily Mail read, ‘Nothing happened in the past 24-hours – it’s business as usual, all over the world’; or imagine that the television screen consisted of nothing but people going about their everyday lives, how keen would the average person be to go on watching or reading about it?

But we have come together this morning to celebrate the Incarnation of God into this world – that really is news – and good news at that. As St John wrote ‘…the Word was made flesh and lived among us’; and we are the people who have been let into the secret that He is alive and amongst us today, and we shall in a few minutes all be in communion with him in the Blessed Sacrament in this very place.

The majority of our fellow-countrymen are simply not interested in learning about this secret at the present time – although we would be only too glad to share it with them. We shouldn’t be too surprised about this, because as St John wrote just before revealing the secret to his readers ‘…[God incarnate] was in the world, and the world, though made by Him, didn’t recognize Him; He came to His own people and they wouldn’t receive Him’. Some things never change! But John goes on to say ‘as many as did receive Him, to them he gave power to become Sons of God’. Last Sunday, remember, we thought about the difference that it makes to have power, specially the power of God, in our hands.

That secret about God’s incarnation, His taking human flesh and becoming like one of us, is an open secret – that’s to say it is something which should be made available to everyone who has ears to hear. The secret can best be summed up in the single word ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God is with us’. It is the secret which can transform the lives of the most ordinary of people and turn them into extra-ordinary ones. It can give our life on this earth a purpose and a destiny which otherwise we would lack.

Let me put it to you that that really is Good News – which is what the word ‘Gospel’ literally means. The ‘Emmanuel-News’ completely eclipses or ‘shuts out’ any Bad News that may be going around.

And perhaps that word ‘NEWS’ should in itself remind us of what we should be doing about it. For the word, N-E-W-S if you think about it, contains the first letter of each of the points of the compass, North, East, West and South. So the good news is for everyone, and the compass tells that it will give direction to our lives Our job is to pick out amongst the people we know, live, and work with, which of them are most likely to listen to the Good News. Then we have to work out how to ‘bring them to Christ’.

But which people shall we go to first? Here’s a clue about how to decide to go about it. Amongst the first people to worship the New-Born King were the shepherds (who were wise enough to know that they really didn’t understand anything very much); and the Wise Men, (who were wise enough to realise they didn’t know everything). Those two categories include most of those who are likely to listen to the Good News we have to offer them. So let’s begin by making a list of all the wise people, and all the simple people we know: and then let’s make a start in sharing that Emmanuel secret with them.

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