Advent: Bad News, Good News

You probably know about the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, in which the Americans resoundingly defeated the British. But do you know that this battle was fought two weeks after the signing of a peace treaty ending the War of 1812?

News traveled slowly 200 years ago—but not today! We are kept on constant alert about everything and anything. Competing news channels are desperate to attract and keep our attention. They try to convince us that we have a right—even a duty—to be informed, and they feed us a steady stream of “breaking news.”

In this hyped-up media environment, an international crisis or major natural disaster must compete for attention with “news” that Lady Gaga has gained 15 pounds. Accuracy and objectivity are often casualties. Reality TV confronts us with the bizarre and offbeat. Entire channels are devoted to fringe diets and fads. You don’t know what to believe!

This barrage of media keeps many in a state of tension and anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), anxiety disorders have increased 1,200 percent since 1980.

I suspect that one reason for this increase is the increase in the number of 24/7 news programs on radio and TV. In the 40-minute drive from my home to the office, I can hear several news stories repeated, each time with slightly more “information” than before. It is as if I am being force fed the news, like a goose being prepared for pâté de foie gras. So I often find peace by turning off the news. It is not that I want to stick my head in the sand. On the contrary, I find I need to get my mind above all the trivia and conflicting details so that I can see the big picture.

And whenever we talk about the big picture, our focus returns to Jesus. Focusing on him isn’t religious escapism–he was and is a real person in time and space. Jesus pitched his tent with humanity when he became human. And now, following his death, resurrection and ascension, he lives in us. Unlike the shifting priorities of the media, Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It is certainly appropriate to call Jesus the Lord of history. He is a source of information that we can rely on, as we struggle to make sense of our frustrating and uncertain times. He promised us peace, but not as the world gives it (John 14:27).

In view of Jesus’ Lordship, the apostle Paul confidently gave this advice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Peter gave similar advice: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

My comfort and peace comes in knowing the good news, and by this, I mean the genuine, cosmic good news of what Jesus has already done. The Gospel confronts us with that reality—not the contrived hype of so-called Reality TV.

I pray daily for the peace that transcends understanding to be upon you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

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