Advent at the Chapel: Good News, Not Good Advice

by Lee Mielke

Seems like I just finished writing last year’s Christmas meditation and here we are again. Time flies when you’re having fun and even if you’re not!

I chose the December 1 topic, “The Gospel is good news, not good advice.”

It reminded me of one of my favorite radio/TV preacher’s statements. Adrian Rogers said
“The Ten Commandments are God’s commandments, not His suggestions.”

But, that’s how the world sees them as well as the good news of the Gospel. I dare say some Christians believe that as well.

In my year thru the Bible reading program the week before Thanksgiving, I read Luke 2’s account of the angel of the Lord “suddenly” standing before the shepherds who were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” and it says that they were “terribly frightened.”

Ya think??

But, the angel’s words to the shepherds start with “Do not be afraid.” Let’s not skip over that too quickly because WE need to hear those words today, even though they’re not coming from an angel suddenly standing in front of us.

Don’t be afraid because “I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;” he said, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ, the Lord.”

So there’s good news……….great joy………and it’s for all people.

Contrast that with what most people today would regard as good news of a great joy for all the people.

It might be Kim Jong-un meeting with Donald Trump, a new high for the stock market, or a cure for cancer. You might have some of your own, I’m sure.

But THIS good news which was given to the shepherds far far exceeds ANY other good news because this good news is from the Almighty, Everlasting, Perfect, Sinless, One True God, and the good news is that HE has paid the price, my price, your price, in full, the cost of RECONCILIATION with His rebellious, disobedient, perverse, treacherous children.

AND, it’s “for ALL people!”

Unfortunately, the vast majority of ALL people don’t care.

And to tell them that a Savior has been born for them “Who is Christ the Lord,” means NOTHING to them because they don’t even have the eyes to see their NEED of this Savior…..and it surely doesn’t rank with LG’s new H-102 Ultra Billion-Meg Smart Phone that even makes cappuccino in the morning which was on sale on “Black Friday” for half price!!!

The angel goes on to tell the shepherds the specifics. There’s a baby, wrapped in cloths (how cute) lying in a manger…..a WHAT? A manger!

And, after that news bulletin; “Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host SAYING (because it can be argued that angels do not sing) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

So the bottom line is “The good news is not good advice…’s the only advice!”

I hope you take it this year, in fact, wrap it up and then give it to someone else as well!


For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

The Beauty of Good News

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52: 7a

A traveller’s foot would not normally be considered a thing of beauty. Even modern socks and shoes do not protect feet from grime or wear as we walk in a world as rough, hard, and dirty as it is fallen. When I used to do long distance backpacking, my feet would first blister and bleed, and then develop layered callouses in thick pads. Yuck. Ugly. But things can take on a beauty not directly related to the way they look. A pair of blue jeans long past mending that we have developed a relationship with. A chipped bowl that is your first choice when you are baking rather than the equally usable new bowl next to it. When I think of the places these feet have taken me, I am dazzled by their design and durability, and that makes them beautiful to me. To be beautiful to others, there has to be something more. There has to be a qualifying attribute. When we dedicate our selves to delivering the Good News we become beautiful. Our feet, our hands, our lips, even our back sides that allow us drive to someplace/someone, and then allow us to sit patiently and tell the Good News – all become beautiful because of what they are doing, not because of the way they look.
~Brian Vander Haak

Christ Comes to Us to Bring Us Good News

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Luke 4:18

“The truth hurts.” A trite and overused statement; yet difficult to deny. What physician or counselor would deny that a client’s best chance of recovery or restoration is connected to their ability to recognize their malady?

Jesus came with good news and bad news. The narrative of his ministry draws a strong distinction between those who say the truth in the bad news (“You are blind, you are sick, you need healing.”), and those who denied the bad news and found the successive part (“I will restore you, I will free you.”) of his message offensive.

Gospel means, “news that brings joy.” Jesus came to declare truth to us, the truth of why he had come: for our rescue and salvation, that we might be delivered from sin into fellowship with God.

The news that brings joy—this gospel—is a stumbling block. For what good is salvation if you do not need a savior? To know Christ, to know why he came, we have to accept the offense of the gospel, the ultimate delivery of good and bad news bundled together.

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” – Tim Keller

~Breanna Randall

Christ Comes to Us to Bring Us Great Joy

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. For behold I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Luke 2:10

These shepherds certainly had good cause to be afraid! Think of the terror put on those who witnessed even the smallest part of God’s heavenly power and majesty.

But now we need not be afraid of the splendor of God’s holiness, his glory was now among us, soon to live inside us!
We need not to feel like an outsider because we are Gentiles, because we are sinners.

This good news is given to ALL the people!
God chose to announce his greatest gift to the lowly shepherds, and is announcing it to us, still a lowly people, to this day.
Christ gives us nothing to fear, and everything to be joyful about.

How could we not be joyful?
The curtain is torn, the angels sing to the shepherds, for the King is among us with salvation in his hands!
~Brandon Dieleman

Here is Your God

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up and do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God.”
 Isaiah 40:9

Who is your God? Flooded with images from commercials, billboards, books, and magazines,  we are given so many competing messages about who our God is. Whether it is a new technology, a new technique for overcoming challenges, a moment, an emotion, or a new self-help guru, we are given so many options of whom or what to crown as God. Our tendency, though, will always remain the same, we want to call out from the mountains that we are God. The search has ended and it is as we always anticipated, we—ourselves—are the beginning and the end.

This joyful cry from Zion that we often proclaim concerning ourselves foreshadows a sobering call in the New Testament that shows we are not the kings we have made ourselves out to be. In John 19:14, Pilate brings Christ before the people and proclaims, “Here is your king.” The response is pure and utter vitriol…we have no king but Caesar, we have no king but ourselves, crucify the one who would claim to be our king. We could not fathom that the good news of Isaiah could be the same news that nailed Jesus of Nazareth to a cross. If it is the same good news, we could never be the God or king we elevate ourselves to be. The proclamation of that king from the mountain turns out to be a cry of dereliction from the cross.

At a family gathering tonight one of my young second cousins raced around the living room, shouting his excitement about the presents to be opened. My aunt bemused that the present could never live up to the expectation. That will always be true, except in Christ. Christ’s most painful moment is our gladdest tidings…in looking at the cross we now say with all certainty and hope, “Here is your God. Here is your King.”

~Ben Gibson

For All the People

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Luke 2:10

Can there be more beautiful words than these?  It must be the most wonderful song ever sung:

Don’t be afraid; be holding on to these words tightly.

I have come especially to tell you this; you have been chosen to be the first to hear.

This isn’t just good news; this is the greatest news ever!

This isn’t just going to make you happy;  you will be overjoyed!

This isn’t just news for you alone; this is for everyone, everywhere, for every time, for evermore.

The best gift of all has been given; no one, not one, has been left out.

And this song was sung for us all to hear.

Behold.  Be holding tight.  To His Word.  To each other.  To Him.

~ Emily Gibson

reblogged from Barnstorming

Beautiful Feet?

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7

What’s with the feet here anyway?   How beautiful are the feet?   Few among us are tempted to put our feet on display, to invite comment on the aesthetic quality of these most pedestrian parts of our bodies.  Sometimes barnacled with bunions and  often clad in calluses, our feet look for a good place to hide.  So something out of the ordinary is happening when feet are placed front and center, inviting such a warm response.

The image set forth here bespeaks at least two realities:  great good news from afar, and deep longing, coupled with anxiety, among those waiting for the news.  The momentous event that impels the messenger could be a battle fought to success, or the impending arrival of someone else who comes to set things aright, or a return from afar with the promise of a new day.

In the incarnation of our Savior and the ensuing news of it, we are the recipients of all that and more.  Our King Jesus has engaged in a terrible battle for us, a battle in which he fought to the death and was slain.  But lo and behold, though dead, he now lives again and reigns gloriously in victory.  He is coming to set things aright here, among us, and the exiles are being freed, redeemed to return home for life in a new day.  What beautiful feet, indeed, that bring us this good news!

~Dan Gibson

Good News for Thirsty Souls

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.
Proverbs 25:25

Wilderness Camp is a yearly tradition at the school that I work at: during the first week of October, small teams of 11th graders embark upon a four-day backpacking trip into the woods and mountains surrounding Tokyo.  One inevitable take-away from the days of hiking and camping is a list of things the students had previously taken for granted.  Usually topping the list is water.  As trails steepen and the sweat starts to pour, water-breaks not only become a want, but a need.

Tired, sore and dehydrated, the way forward seems impossible, the next peak just a little too steep.  Water refreshes the thirsting, weary body, and enables the exhausted sojourner to press on.

What an apt analogy to describe the arrival of good news!  Though Solomon’s kingdom enjoyed peace and prosperity, Israel’s position between major world powers was never entirely secure.  Sandwiched between powerful and vast ancient civilizations, the Israelites lived in the midst of tensions over land, resources and cultural differences that must have seemed so much bigger than them.  Surely their call to bless the nations seemed at times out of reach while living in expectation not of good news, but of invasion or rumors of invasion!

Yet the news that we now reflect upon in this Advent season was not merely good news; it was the best news!  Notably, the news wasn’t arriving in Bethlehem from a distant land; rather, Bethlehem was the epicenter and the news was to be broadcast to many distant lands, world over!  Millennia of stumbling, weariness and hopelessness arrived at that moment to receive nothing less than history’s greatest water-break.  We persevere today in the renewal and refreshment of the good news of Christ.  Quenched with this knowledge, our thirst slaked by Christ’s spirit, we push on, secure in the trust that the hike is not impossible.

~Nate Gibson

In His Presence

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Luke 1:19

We don’t always recognize good news when we hear it.   It may be too surrounded by lots of bad news, or it may sound too incredible, or be beyond comprehension, or simply too good to be true.  Our response to good news may be less enthusiastic than the messenger hopes for.

So it was with Zechariah.    He seems underwhelmed in asking the question, “How I can be sure?”   This is too often our own reaction to the incredible:   “Show me proof.”  “Are you kidding me?”  “You are pulling my leg.”   “Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?”

The angel doesn’t say “hey, choose to believe me or not, I’m only the messenger here.”  Instead he goes to great lengths to say exactly who he is, where he is from and from Whom the message is delivered.   Zechariah is promptly rendered mute, his unbelief no longer to be articulated aloud.   His silence gives him lots of time to contemplate the significance of this particular good news.

It came directly from one in the presence of God about one who is God.

Incredible news to hear indeed.  Worth contemplating and absorbing and believing —  especially in silence, in His presence.

~E Gibson