Tag: good news

Away in a Manger – Good News Boy

Sermon, Advent 3A, Sunday December 15, 2019, St PetriAway in a manger

After viewing ‘Away in a Manger’ – Joseph  https://skitguys.com/videos/away-in-a-manger

Matthew 11:2-11 

 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,

    who will prepare your way before you.”[b]

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.


I have to admit, that about this time of year, in Advent, just before Christmas, I struggle to find joy in what Christmas has become. I hear the alternative story that has grown in dimensions to become THE story for most in my lifetime and I get mildly angry. I seem to be on the edge of being cynical about the whole thing right about now. Maybe I’m becoming a ‘grumpy old man’!

I think I needed to be reminded this Advent that Christmas is about joy – the joy of a newborn baby and a proud Dad. I had to be reminded that Christmas and indeed the whole Christian movement is news – good news.

It’s good news and human news I can relate to. I remember holding my own babies. I remember Leanne and I marvelling at the gifts we had been given. Same for those around that shed at night. They soaked up this good news boy.

The whole of our Christmas story is essentially news – good news.

That is what Matthew and the other New Testament witnesses choose to name the Jesus event – news: good news’ ‘gospel’.

It is good news not just good advice. Advice is given to help you do something. Good news just is – good news that makes the soul soar.

Is Christmas, still good news for you? Is the whole Jesus event good news for you? Or, are you verging on cynicism when it comes to faith, church, God, Christmas? Is Jesus more just good advice’ for you rather than truly good news for you?

You know, three things happen when a thing is news.

  1. News is news that has not just happened out of the blue.
  2. News is news because something has actually happened, and the story is now changed forever.
  3. News introduces an intermediate time of waiting.


  1. News is news because it does not come out of the blue. It is unexpected but it is part of a back story. EG. That terrible volcano eruption on White Island in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island of NZ this week is bad news. We feel for those who have lost their lives and those left behind and those injured. That island is a known volcano. It has a whole story behind it. The bad news came as part of that long back story of that island. News is news because it is unexpected but comes from somewhere already partly known.
  2. News is news because something has actually happened. The thing that happened has consequences; has impact on people’s lives. The consequences of that volcano erupting has reshaped thousands of people’s lives; even a whole nations’ life forever. Things are not the same and the story is now different. Everything has changed as a result of that event. News is news because it changes things and cannot be undone.
  3. News introduces an new time of waiting. The event has occurred and had its significant consequence and now we wait. We wait for people to recover. We wait for the time of mourning for many families. We wait to a return to less chaos and heartache. News is news because it begins something – recovery, survival, new learning that gives us some hope of avoiding the bad event and finding the new things for the future.

Can you see how Christmas is news; good news?

1 Christmas is good news because it did not come from nowhere. It was foretold in a hundred ways over thousands of years – and in the most beautiful way – a new highway, water in the desert, singing in the land, a new king to rule in justice for all, a new good shepherd unlike the blind guides leading people into fake news. John is the go-between. The last great prophet and yet the great announcer of the final prophet – Jesus.

John, quite understandably, had his doubts. He is rotting in a prison for no good reason and Jesus is not quite what they expected in terms of a new king! No swords, white stallions, army…. John sends his friends to ask this supposed promised king, “Are you the One?”

The new good news king replies;

‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

 “OK. I won’t stumble. I won’t take offense, Jesus”.

Yes, Jesus is the good news that comes from that whole back story of promise. Jesus is news: good news because he comes from promise – promise of new life, new hope, new people, new heaven and new earth coming right here in the old one.

2. Christianity is essentially news; good news, because something good actually happened in real space and time – in our human story and in a real human way.

That is THE news of Christmas in particular. We call it the “Incarnation” – God taking on our bones and breath. Our flesh; being ‘carnalis’, ‘caro’, ‘meat, flesh’. God in the flesh, in the physical body; our body, our story, our ways….

The thing that happened has consequences; has impact on people’s lives. Jesus calls it the new ‘covenant’; the new relationship closer than ever before and not based on you earning it or achieving it or being good to get it, but all based on God’s will to give himself to you; to give all his gifts; all his love, all his acceptance, all his peace; forgiveness after forgiveness. Now there is ongoing teaching, learning, shaping in this undeserved gift of kindness and new hope; a whole new life to be lived!

We are like Joseph with his new baby boy, Joseph is a changed man. His whole life now includes someone else, something else, a future hope that shaped him from day one.

Same for you and me. The good news boy has called us into his community and enlisted us in his kingdom mission. Our whole lives are now different than they would ever be without that call, that love, that good news event still going on day by day in us.

3. And now the news that is very good puts us that time of hopeful, expectant waiting. We wait for good news boy to slowly fulfill his destiny; his rule of grace in one person at a time, one day at a time until what he promises comes to be  complete makeover, complete fulfilment of all promises to the letter; promises of life even through dying, hope even in any suffering, great reward for the life lived in service of this good news king.

Promises of healing for my body, healing for my relationships, end to my suffering, love for my lack of love, faith for my doubt, trust for my fears, calm for my worries, hope even for this dangerous world of volcanoes, wars, injustice, corruption, and all the bad news.

So, John heard right in prison, and Joseph felt it right in the shed. Jesus is the news – the good news boy.

  1. He is the ONE of promise from that back story of promise who brings future promise.
  2. He has arrived and has done all that was necessary for the new relationship to be possible between us and he has placed us in this expectant, hopeful wait for the good news to get better.
  3. He sets us on an expectant and hopeful way of living in his kingly mission where he has placed us.

I am back again now. I am no longer a grumpy old man about Christmas. I am a new man because of Christmas.

I see the blue and hear the faith songs we sing and marvel at the good news boy, and somehow, I am good news again. So are we. So are you.



Really Good News Christmas Eve

Sermon: Christmas Eve     Advent -Christmas Title Pic 2013

“Receiving some Good News”  

Luke 2:8-12               

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

People think that Christianity is about keeping rules, trying to be good, not doing anything wrong, finding a personal meaning to cope with life. People think that Christians who proclaim that God is real, good and present in the world now have spent way too long out in the paddock and are suffering from some kind of psychological trauma or are lost in some kind of delusional belief.

The Shepherd guy knows none of that is true. So do the first witnesses to the event of that first Christmas. So do people who believe what they hear in this room now.

Christmas is not a fairy tale, an age old fable to drag out each year to make us all feel nice as families or some concocted story that helps business along for the year. It has become this for many people. But we are not convinced about all of that. In fact we are convinced that it is the grandest vision of life and the greatest story of our lives and it is in essence  very, very good news – not just for church goers but for alive human beings.

A grand vision for the world and for you?

How about a vision of life that proclaims that there is room in the divine inn for anyone, from anywhere who has done or not done anything?

How about a grand vision of life that speaks of the relentless divine interrupting of our lives to get through to us that God is love and in him all people find their home, their place, their peace?

How about a vision of God that says that you are like the Shepherd guy – chosen, invited in, called, welcomed, not accidental, isolated, banished from the church, outcast from acceptance and welcome and the kindness of the God.

How about good news that really is good news – the world is heading somewhere after all. Human beings , animals, rocks plants the seas and the sky and stars are still being shaped by a God who loves all of us and all of it. God is still operating beyond and behind and further out than we can know or see – but can trust.

How about your life being lived with God’s constant interruptions, so that the Creator and Sustainer of the world can tell you again that he is still here, still with you, that your baptism into his divine community in the presence of his Son, Jesus, still means plenty to him; you mean plenty to him and you have your place any time you want it?

One thing…

Like the Shepherd, we folks at St Petri are different men and women, young adults and kids now, because of one thing. We are not loved and accepted and called and chosen because we are good. We could never be good enough to match God’s goodness and win his approval.

We are not called and loved because we have figured out the secret spiritual pathway, or understood the mysterious meaning of life in some philosophical system, or learnt some ancient spiritual ritual or practice that somehow cleanses us and makes us one with nature.

No, we have been made acceptable, made wise to God’s ways, aware of God’s presence and responsive to his word of promise in our ears by God with us – this human divine life in the hay and the wood and the cold and the love of those around him.

He is the third way. The gospel way, the grace way, the gospel way for this life and this town and this family.

It all begins in this cave, this feeding trough, this candle lit room, this gathering of strangers brought together by the star of God – the real star of Christmas – God with us and for us – Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Saviour, Friend of sinners, man of sorrows, triumphant king of kings, sung into birth by angels and presented gifts by science and reasoned men, seen by the workers of the world and marvelled at by a surprised carpenter and his very young wife to be.

Pack it up for another year?

Will we walk away from this darkened candle lit room tonight and pack Christmas and the star and the story away for another year like we pack up the tree, throw out the wrapping paper or store in the cupboard until we drag it out again next year or will we take this light into our own darkness and into the dark places in our families and community?

 Will we be chosen?

Will we be chosen tonight? If we do what the Shepherds did and journey toward the Prince of Peace, will we need to own up to the fact that we have not got a leg to stand on when it come to being righteous, right, good, perfect or holy. But then he will say all this is done for you by this Christ Child as he grows to that adult bearing the shame and sin of the world on that Calvary hill, then bursting out of the dark dead tomb in light and life.

Friend, God is choosing you again this holy night. He is placing his star at your front door. He is speaking really good news which has nothing to do with you being good – just being made new – by this Light, this Emmanuel – God with us and for us.

Take the Star.

Will you take in that star and let him light up your house from the inside? Will you lay aside what you have summed up Christmas to be and let Jesus sum you up and speak his good news into your heart and mind?

Tonight is a sign – an ancient sign but a present sign, a human sign – a human baby of divine being and life. Tonight is a sign for you. A moment of Jesus seeking you out and interrupting your life again – not for the purpose of making you fearful of God, the church, the Saviour – but an interruption to your plans that is really good for you and your family.

We pray that you read the sign, grab a hold of the light, hear the news that is good and take it with you into tomorrow and 2014.

The light and hope of Jesus is shining tonight and interrupting us again, and there is no need to be afraid.


Mission Day – Sent with Good News

Sermon, Mission Day 2012,

Dr Steen Olsen, SA/NT District Mission Director

St Petri, Nuriootpa 4/11/12

 Sent with Good News!

Romans 10:11-17

11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.


Have you ever felt pressured to witness to your Christian faith?

When I was at Auckland University in 1970 I felt that pressure.

We had been trained to use various methods to witness and eventually the guilt of doing nothing became too great and I decided I had to find someone to witness to looked in the main quadrangle – not too intellectual looking  and not in a group! Finally I spotted a likely victim and I approached him. I unloaded my witness and asked if he was interested. I think we were both relieved when he said “no” and we could move on.


As I reflected on that I decided that there has to be a better way!

1) Our text makes it plain that we have been sent with good news. At least I got that bit right!

Many people today will never come anywhere near a church, even if we have the best programs in the world, even if we work really hard to make them feel at home.

And they won’t come to faith in Jesus Christ by communing with nature or even by working hard caring for their families and serving community

St Paul puts it well: v14-15a

14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?

People used to say, “Build it and they will come”. I doubt if that ever worked in Australia and it certainly doesn’t now unless we go to them they will never hear and unless we understand that we are sent to them we will never go

2) That means building relationships with people on their turf, at work, at the club, down the street – wherever people gather. We are sent to be who we are – salt and light for the world. We are not to hide our light under a bushel

but neither are we to accost people and ram the gospel down their throats. I got that badly wrong, didn’t I!


As we get to know people and love them as Jesus loved people the Lord will open opportunities to share good news. We are open about who we are as Christians as we don’t try to force it on others people become curious

when things go wrong we can ask if they mind if we pray for them. As they get to know us they will want to know what makes us tick, but remember we don’t love them on the condition they listen…


3) When we get the opportunity we tell them about Jesus, not just what we are doing at church. Even if people ask you why you go to church, don’t mumble something about friends or that you feel good. Tell them that you meet Jesus there – it is all about Jesus.

Our text talks about proclaiming Jesus, believing in J, calling on Jesus. It is all about Jesus! Not the Church. Not me.

When people have heard about Jesus and are coming to believe in him, and are calling on his name and so have been saved, then you can talk to them about Church. The point is people are far more interested in Jesus than in the church

Non Christians tend to like Jesus, but not the Church. So work out ways of talking about your relationship with Jesus, not church.


4) We are bringing good news, not a new or better set of rules. Paul paraphrases Isaiah 52 (verse 7):

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”

He says not all have ‘obeyed the good news’ – a strange phrase…

Earlier in Romans he gives us a clue when he talks of “the obedience of faith” [1:5]. The emphasis is not on obeying a set of rules you can put up on the wall but on believing God’s promises and receiving the gift of Jesus.

“Faith”, Paul says, “Comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ”

The Scriptures point us to Jesus Christ. They bear fruit in the lives of those who hear them. That fruit is faith or trust in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.


5) The fundamental problem is not just that people do bad things, but that they are believing false promises. If you like, they trust pseudo-good-news – false good news.

Let me give you some examples of these false promises:

  • the consumerist promise (buy this and you will be happy and fulfilled);
  • the cosmetic surgery promise (a little nip & tuck and eternal youth – and happiness – is yours!);
  • the wealth promise (money can buy anything!);
  • the security promise (invest and insure and nothing can hurt you!);
  • the status promise (take this job and you will get the recognition you deserve!);
  • the religious promise (sincerely try to be a good disciple of Jesus and obey him and God will be pleased with you!)….

The problem with these false promises is that they don’t deliver!

By God’s grace at some point in their lives people sometimes discover that even good things, healthy things, let us down. When we trust them to deliver purpose and satisfaction there is nothing wrong with being insured or having good investments but when we begin to place our trust and hope in them they become a problem. When we try to get our satisfaction and purpose in life from these things we end up being disappointed


6) But we have good news!

Jesus has died to set us free from all false promises he himself is the promise of the Father, and because of his death and resurrection for us we are forgiven and discover we are part of God’s purpose for his world. That gives our lives meaning. What we do has eternal significance, even the little acts of kindness are important they are part of what God is doing in another person’s life.

We know that he loves us unconditionally (he died for me), so we don’t have anything to prove. We can therefore rest in his care and be at peace. We have ways of dealing with the situation when someone hurts us we don’t have to lash back. We can remember we have hurt others and God and been forgiven. And when things go wrong or we lose our job or some money, we still know that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

It is not that these things aren’t important – they are. But we also know that we can still move on secure in God’s love. All this is good news for the people of our world

We have been sent into our world with that good news. It is the most natural thing in the world. As we share life with others – the ups and the downs, that we also tell them about our friend Jesus and the difference he makes to our lives

as they ask and we see the opportunity.  You don’t have to be rude like I was all those years ago, but we can still give a reason for our faith and hope because we have been sent with this good news.