“Fake news” has been named Word of the Year by Collins Dictionary and will be printed in the next edition. The phrase, which is often used by Donald Trump, has seen a 365 per cent rise in use since 2016. It is often defined as false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. There’s a lot of it about and even if everyone spots it and dismisses it, it still manages to sow doubt causing us to question nearly everything in order that we may find a lie. Of course, questioning can be healthy as our attitude to sexploitation in the workplace attests to. But I’ve also seen comments on videos from war-torn countries that suggest the news is fake and dead children and grieving mothers are just actors. Evil is made even worse by the denial of its existence.
As Christians, we believe in the good news which claims to tell a truth that can seem to contradict what we know to be scientific truth: some two thousand years ago, an angel appeared to a young Jewish girl and told her that she would carry the son of God. The baby grew up preaching and teaching, making the blind see and the lame walk amongst other things. Then at thirty-three years old, he was crucified and, three days later, he rose from the dead.
To us today this might be considered fake news. But this is real news. And it is real, not just because of historical evidence from Josephus or Pliny but because of Love. Philosophers and biologists will say that love is just a concept or an evolutionary quirk. Society doesn’t seem very interested in talking about it. And so, the news, fake or otherwise, is dominated by evil.
But the good news is that Love came down at Christmas. The power of love here on earth is immense. We cannot buy love because it must be a gift given freely. When we are embraced in love, we know it is because others truly care for us, not because of a good they hope to get from us. We are secure because we know that we are cherished by others for what we are. God’s gift to us is a gift of love. God so loved the world that He gave….so says John’s Gospel. It is a giving love, a generous love. It is grace love, gift love; free and unconstrained. God doesn’t make a list and check it twice to find out who’s naughty or nice before He gives His Christmas gift. His gift is free and undeserved and unsolicited and unlooked for love. The love-gift of God is ours. We need only take it by faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the message of the Scriptures. That is the good news for Christmas. The greatest gift ever given, offered free, unconditionally to all who believe.
At this time of year, people head to midnight services only in part because it’s something to do or they’re drunk or they do it because it gives them a lovely feeling. Carols have the best-known tunes. By candlelight, the church glows. But here must also be a transformation of the heart – and there generally is. Charity will be provided this year, as every year, by millions of Christians because love is tangible. It is a full stomach (a Christmas day lunch at church for those on their own). It is a bed for the night (in the Winter Night shelter). It is a friendly phone call or even just a smile. We do this big Christmas festival thing for a reason: because Love teaches us to walk the way of the Christ-child in humility and service.
Some people have found 2017 disappointing and depressing. But then evil trades in doubt and we should resist it. The fake news is that humankind is lost. The good news is that, because Love came down at Christmas, it can be saved.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Be born in us this Christmas.
With Advent and Christmas blessings,
Revd Nicola Furley-Smith, Synod Moderator