Tidings of Great Joy

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The kids have been in the other room, going through old baby photos and laughing uproariously, (whilst Val and I sit by the fire watching Downton Abbey).

It made me recall telling people about the arrival of a new baby: of that huge gush of pride and excitement; of individual phone messages conveying vital statistics and first impressions (all jotted down here in the old albums).

It was wonderfully good news.

And the ancient Hebrew writers had a precise term for that experience. It was the word basar , which the older versions translate as “bring good tidings.” And each phone-call was a basar moment, (you might say), as I told the good tidings of my baby’s birth.

And everyone loves to hear good tidings. How can you be sad or grumpy about it? You are thrilled. You offer congratulations. You request a visit.

But there’s even more in that word basar. According to this Hebrew dictionary, it carries the strong implication of, if not exactly humour, then cheerfulness. Strong’s Concordance says the word means “to be fresh, i.e. full (rosy, figuratively cheerful; to announce (glad news) … bear, carry, preach, tell good tidings.” בָּשַׂר] Verb: bear tidings (√ rub smooth the face; compare Arabic  remove the face of surface of a thing, compare Arabic  be glad, joyful;  “He rejoiced him with the message of the birth of a son”; Ethiopic  bring a joyful message, so Assyrian bussuru (Pa.) — “Gladden with good tidings: birth of a son,” Jeremiah 20:15; victory 1 Samuel 31:92 Samuel 1:201 Chronicles 10:9Psalm 68:12; היה כמבשׂר בעיניו  “He was in his eyes as a bearer of good tidings” (2 Samuel 4:10).

Enough of the dictionary (!): “Rejoice him with the message of the birth of a son”! Something new, wonderful and exciting! No wonder all the worry-lines have been smoothed away. This is good good news, the very best – This is the quality of the news that is Jesus Himself. He was born to a chorus of “Peace of earth and good will to all men” and his life and death and resurrection are all in the same category.

It is what “Gospel” means!

When you have news like this, it’s difficult to keep still. When Jairus put his arms around the daughter whom he thought he had lost forever, he was not about to be sober and restrained about it. When something really good happens, who wants to keep it to themselves?

Here’s a modern translation of Matthew 5:

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

When I read a translation like that I catch a little of the bubbling laughter of Jesus as he announces the unconquerable kingdom of God. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” (Luke 4). Did you spot the basar moment?

The Lord has appointed me and you to smile and laugh and giggle with pleasure, because of the wonderful news about Jesus.

And share it too.

There’s a moment at the end of Life is Beautiful when Guido, having successfully protected his little boy from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp through the gift of his irrepressible laughter and joy, knows that he will not survive. And yet, looking at his son, he pulls one more stunt, goosestepping along with his executioners as his son watches.

It’s as if he’s saying (as C.S.Lewis said) “My joy is not at the mercy of the misery that the world doles out. No matter what.”

Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of LIFE, of joy itself. It was a basar moment:

It was a blast of grace that blew all fear away.

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