Our Sacred Stories: Good News: God is Among us ~ How Can I tell?
Our English word, Gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon, god-spell or glad tidings. These glad tidings or good news or gospel are the story of God’s presence acting among us. What a wonder! It lies at the very center of our faith. We capture it in what is known as the Paschal Mystery - the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is good news that is so important, so wonderful that from the earliest times Christians told and retold the story over and over again.
At some point in the first several generations it was decided that this oral story of the message and mission of Jesus should be written down. This writing down occurred in a number of Christian communities and was shared around their world, as the glad tidings, the gospel.
In the Feast of the Incarnation, and leading up to it, in Advent, we celebrate the glad tidings of God’s coming among us, to all humanity. It is the beginning of the Paschal Mystery and truly gospel, good news. How do we know and experience God among us? How can I tell?
In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:10-18) we meet John the Baptist. John is often seen as the last of the Old Testament prophets and at the same time, the first of the apostles of Jesus. As prophet, he calls on people to change, to prepare for the advent of God into our lives. As apostle, John calls for us to recognize and acknowledge that God is now among us. Listening to this prophet and apostle, how can we grow in our own awareness of this wonder of our faith?
Perhaps it is in a very active way. As John the Baptist spoke, repeatedly people asked him the question what should we do? In Luke’s telling of the story, John offers concrete expressions of the transformation that is called for. Whether it is the crowd around him in general or tax collectors or soldiers, the advice he offers is an expression of God’s reign or dream for all humanity in practical, real terms. The responses are varied, but they all call for an attitude of compassion, respect, justice and peace. At the core of the dream, there is always a loving heart, which reflects the heart of our God.
Paul, writing to the Philippian community of Christians (Phil.4:4-7) reveals the same message. He points out that the presence of God is truly among us. Thus, we should live in a way that is marked by gentleness that is obvious to all. Because God is near, we can rely on that presence among us. And so, live in peace.
John and Paul help us to find a response to our question. How can I tell that God is among us? It is by recognizing and acknowledging God’s presence in those we encounter – acknowledging that God is indeed among us, as we act towards one another in ways that reflect this presence.
The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah (Zeph.3:14-18a) presents us with the ultimate result of such a vision of God’s active presence when we are told:
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,...
The Lord, your God is in your midst,...
[God] will rejoice over you with gladness,...
[God] will renew you in love.