The First Sunday after Christmas

UK Power Networks to boost compensation payments. Donation ‘saved our Christmas’ say family. Tributes to ‘exceptional’ soldier’ killed in Afghanistan. Three Brits injured in Tenerife hotel explosion. Pope Francis urges aid access to Syria in Christmas speech. South Sudan threatens to attack rebel stronghold. Queen speaks of family’s reignited happiness and hope after Prince George’s birth. Orange upend Gophers in Texas Bowl. Hull smash six past hapless Fulham. Gerry Adams says resolution possible as NI talks resume. Alcohol stands alone as our biggest problem. Asylum seeker ambassador accused of treason in Zimbabwe media. English lions trapped by Johnson, tamed by Lyon. Christmas in Bethlehem draws crowds to Holy Land to celebrate birth of Jesus. A Judge upholds NSA collection of data on calls. Big decisions for Jets and not just on the coach. Kansas to begin drug-testing of welfare recipients next year. China eases one-child policy. Egypt police open fire on protesters. Pope Francis excommunicates priest for teaching women (how to become ordained themselves). Bethlehem wall is erected in Piccadilly. High street post-Christmas sales dampen as shoppers stay at home. Cancer treatment voted top medical breakthrough 2013.

Such and a lot lot more are recent news headlines. What grabs your attention? I expect things that have some relevance or link to you be it through your interests, nationality, point of view or situation and circumstance. The days are long gone when news just enters the village with the stranger passing through. Now we’re bombarded with so much that we need to filter it and so we choose the news services we prefer. So much of our news has an ongoing context of politics or social mores or the sports ladder that we want not just the news item but a context to help us understand things and if we hear this again and again then we’re going to be less inclined to listen to, consider or even accept a different point of view. We hear the news we want to hear.

It can happen with religions too. Their messages can be standardised and stereotyped so that people know what to expect. This contributes to our consumer view of the media and of most things – we take things in as we think we need them. We shop – or not – for God as we believe we have need. The story of Christmas and the baby Jesus – and the ‘follow-ups’: Jesus as an adult – Jesus dead on a cross – Jesus’ empty tomb – are stories however of God intervening, interrupting, and getting in the way of people! Mary didn’t have the tea cups ready for Gabriel’s visit! The shepherds weren’t tapping their feet and looking at their watches so to speak thinking the angels were late! Herod certainly didn’t respond to the news of the arrival of a baby king with joy. God is stepping into human history to rescue us and Jesus keeps doing so! The an-gels sang specifically to individuals – ‘to you is born this day …’ and the Christian message is directly spoken to people. To you – the reader! – Jesus says ‘Follow me’ – just as he also says to all who commune that bread and wine are given and shed ‘for you’. The empty grave testifies that God is active and no matter what part of the story we might focus on, Jesus is there ‘standing in front of us’ so that we see him as Lord and ourselves as sinners needing forgiveness. Both messages need to be heard again and again. News has never got so personal.  — GS