Too Good to Be True?
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
I tend to be skeptical of late-night infomercials. I know they’re trying to sell me something, and it makes the lofty claims their enthusiastic (and somehow always Australian) spokespeople deliver pretty tough to swallow. They usually promise far more in matters of internal transformation and emotional well-being than a simple toaster oven or garden hose should be able to deliver—and most of the time I see right through them, because I know that I’ll be disappointed if I fall for it. Of course, there are those occasions when the sales pitch is perfectly presented and hits me at just the right time (usually when I’m hungry or bored or open to suggestion) and I make a purchase. Four to six weeks later when the product arrives, I’m usually disappointed. Good news. Great Joy. All people. Those are the unbelievable claims of the angels to the shepherds about what one coming child will bring with him. It sounds like a pretty lofty list of features for one nondescript baby born in a feeding trough to make good on—and the shepherds would have been justified in making a hard pass. Perhaps the fact that they too witnessed this spectacular sales pitch at night explains their immediate enthusiasm. Whatever the reason, the shepherds were all in and soon became passionate pitchmen themselves. Two thousand years after this first angelic infomercial, we who seek to perpetuate Jesus here have to wrestle with the reality that the people of Jesus have not always been good news or great joy to all people. We have to decide if those failures are overpromises or just user error. Is our faith tradition able to be all we hope it will be? Can we deliver on the promises made by the angels? Can we supply the world with something that—surprisingly—isn’t too good to be true? So many people in vulnerable communities are rightly skeptical that such beauty exists in this story because of the ugliness Christians have shown them, and because of the injustices and cruelties they experience. Today, look for direct, tangible, and close ways to bring news that is good, and joy that is great, to all people in your path.
Printed with permission from Pavlovitz, John. Low: An Honest Advent Devotional (pp. 14-15). Chalice Press.