He sent me to bring the good news to the poor ... (Luke 4:18)
I don't whether you've ever thought about this, but "news" seems a very modern word.
I remember when I was in Oxford an old chap telling me how he, as a child, had heard the news of the end of the First World War - they didn’t get the news on the 11th of November, via a telephone message to the house of the Squire, like in Downton Abbey - but almost a week later, via a telegraph to the local railway station.
No hourly news bulletins, or rolling news in those days!
When we think about "news" we think about the way it is delivered to us - and all of these depend on a certain technology. Radio, (only about 100 years old) - or by the marvels of television (little more than 50 years in our homes) or through 24 hour satellite or cable tv and through computers (about 20 years ago) and even more recently through our phones and tablets (for the last ten years or so). And even the oldest, and most familiar way in which news has been given to us, the Newspaper, has appeared only within the last two centuries. "News" is very much a feature of the modern world - events from the other side of the world - fire, floods and tsunamis, and this very week snow storms in North America - these are instantly before us.
So perhaps its a bit of a surprise that they had "news" in the ancient world. No papers, no radio or tv or internet, no mobile phones, no iPads - how could it be?
But let's go back to what “News" actually is. People (myself included) will often say that all the media are interested in is bad news - disasters, wars, conflict - and while there's some truth in that, we must be careful not to miss the point. We don't hear on the news about places where there is no war, or no conflict, or no disasters, not because its not bad, but because its not news. You'll never see on the Front page of the Sentinel "Nothing Happened today" - no news, is no news!
No - news is an event, a happening, a change. It is something out of the ordinary, beyond the run of the mill, which disrupts the routine. It excites our emotions, moves our hearts, stirs us with anticipation. It might make us weep, or foster hateful or lustful thoughts and feelings, but if it leaves us cold and disinterested, then it is not news.
There has always been news, irrespective of the technology, and the story of Christ is news beyond news.
At the birth of Christ, the angels cry Lo! Behold! and the shepherds rush from the fields to Bethlehem. Herod hears the news of the birth of the child and reacts with fear and anger. John the Baptist tells his followers - Behold the Lamb of God, and they turn to him. In today's Gospel, Jesus proclaims the news of his coming in Nazareth, and the hearers are outraged. And the apostles told the extraordinary news of his teaching and miracles, of his betrayal and his arrest, of his death and his resurrection, and people are moved to join them and follow him, or arrest and imprison them.
This the greatest news story ever. The scoop beyond all scoops. News that moves hearts by word of mouth, by journeys and by letters, by speeches given in market places and in the courtrooms, by charity and by martyrdom. News which moves the heart and saves the soul.