Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good news among the bad

The grape-vine in my family is a tried a true means of communication. Faster than the speed of light sometimes.

For example: yesterday morning, my younger daughter got a text from my sister's younger daughter. Immediately, SK texted E, who yelled at me from the bedroom where she was packing to go back to Seattle. The barn on my brother-in-law's family farm burned down Sunday night.  I instantly called my sister. "You already know?" she said, rather incredulously. When I explained the chain, she laughed. "I was just about to call you," she said. "Leave it to our daughters to beat me to it."  My sister, her husband, their son, my b-in-law's mother, brother, other folks stood and watched that old barn burn to ashes Sunday. It was built of dry timber and straw and, even in a blizzard, went down fast. And, along with the saddles, harnesses, piglets and their mama, a couple of lifetimes of memories went up in flames and down in cinders that night. Hard to recapture.  Their livelihood depends, to a large extent, on that barn. On all the farm's buildings. Fortunately, the quick thinking of my b-in-l's brother, who grabbed a garden hose before the fire department got there, the barn was the only building lost. But though that should be comfort (and surely is in the abstract), I can imagine it's hard to face the black hole where that barn sat all the years of this family's life (only Grandma remembers before it was a fixture).

But while I'm thinking about them this week, it also struck me how quickly the news of this fire traveled to us. Gossip. That's what some people might call it. Gossip carries a negative connotation, doesn't it? And I realize that the definition of gossip is 'idle talk' or rumor. And about such chatter, we're warned often enough...as we should be. When what we share is based wholly for the sake of hurting someone, it's nefarious indeed. But now and then, maybe the word, the very idea of gossip gets twisted on its head, this idea of one person telling another amazing, wonderful news--like the news of an impending marriage or a new baby-- then that news being passed on and on and on. Not all news is bad news, not all 'passing it on,' the wrong thing.

If you think about it, something like this 'good' gossip happened in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple to be presented to the Lord. It wasn't a human whispering in the ears of Simeon and the prophetess Anna.  It was the Holy Spirit himself who said, "Hey, do you know what's going on here? He who you've been waiting for is here."  The Holy Spirit spoke familiarly enough to these two people, intimately enough that each knew exactly which baby of the presumably many who were being presented that day. Simeon had been promised he wouldn't die without seeing the Messiah. His position was such that parents put their babies into his arms for a blessing. When he was handed Jesus, something powerful happened. A switch flipped (on an unrelated note, I always want to say a flip switched, which makes me wonder about my aging brain) and an amalgamation of words from the prophet Isaiah came out of his mouth. All about the Servant King. It's a jaw-dropping moment for these pious Jews, even ones who'd already been told (and believed) who their baby was.  They marveled at this confirmation.
But God didn't leave it at that. At one confirmation, I mean. He gave them two. Anna, the prophet, also immediately recognized Jesus. And spoke loudly and firmly to all within the sound of her voice about him.

These moments in the temple, which began with the Holy Spirit whispering in the ears of His faithful, were confirmation in three ways, really. Confirmation for Simeon and Anna, that what God had promised--that they'd live to see Him--had come. God was faithful to fulfill His promise to them. And they'd been faithful to wait. And, as I said, it was confirmation to Mary and Joseph that God would continually remind them that their baby was not just any random baby, but God Incarnate. He would always--always be unusual, and they'd always marvel. And thirdly, it was confirmation to those within the reach of the words spoken. Even  though the events were taking place outside their sphere of understanding (though they stood right there listening), God was on the move. There was more going on than most could comprehend. Only a few had been told. Only a few had had the good news whispered to them.

In any situation there's more going on than we can understand. We stand in a crowd and whisper among ourselves. Gossip about what we've heard, trying to make sense of the commotion. But somewhere, God is whispering the truth. If we open our ears, get the cotton of this world out of them, perhaps the gossip we hear is will be from the Holy Spirit Himself.

And then, only then, can we begin to spread the GOOD NEWS.

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel." Acts 2: 29-32

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