We never get a choice about what assails us first. You can count on the bad news being at the head of the line. In fact, distressing reports generally take up the entire queue that runs from a confronting “Oh no!” to a speechless, headshaking worse and worse.

Despite our all too familiar yearning for happiness, it is overshadowed by a strangely lurking, dominant desire, labelled morbid curiosity. Horror films make much more than comedies, unless the latter is grotesquely laced with the former. Tragedy traverses the grapevines and prayer chains faster than anyone can say, “Hallelujah!”

Any traveller passing through the large and fair regional city where I reside, would be distracted from the leafy avenues by the traumatic newspaper banners, caged like beasts outside corner stores. If someone visited for a week of such headlines, he or she could be forgiven for wondering, in spite of the mild mountain weather, if this was one of Dante’s circles of hell.

The local rag’s apparent mission statement to represent the region as the most disastrous and dangerous postcode in the country has been a source of not only public embarrassment, but also of personal and community unrest. I was asked to join a representative posse of clergy to go and cheer up the tabloid’s manager and editor. We met in a dimly lit room on either side of what felt like a full-size billiard table – the kind you use when you want to keep negotiators out of arm’s reach.

We were given the classic line, “If it bleeds, it leads”, adding that no news outlet could survive on a business model other than “worst case scenario”. They simply delivered the product for which readers craved, which incidentally aligns with Dante’s third circle of hell – the allotment for those with unruly appetites.

A politicised pandemic, exploding bush fires, consuming floods, radical wokeness, natural and unnatural disasters, lies, thuggery, war – not to mention that thing that just ruined your day: it’s bad news. Where’s the good?

Well, that begins not with a bad bulletin but with the worst of all. The universal announcement is that we stand guilty, convicted, and condemned to a never-ending sentence in the one true hell by the only perfect, almighty, and infinitely just Judge there is.

Now for the good news – spectacularly so – at last. The Bible proclaims that God the Father has decreed that all those who confess their sins to Him and place their trust in God the Son and in His deeds of becoming a Man, enduring our punishment on the cross, and rising again in triumph over death and evil, shall receive a complete pardon, renewal and indwelling by God the Holy Spirit, and incessant, ageless, thanks-filled life in God’s kingdom.

At the end of the day, that’s the only good news there is, but make no mistake, it eclipses everything else. It redefines; it reorientates; it releases. It dawns with a guiding star on this tired creation at Christmas and it rises with the Son as the first human of the new creation at Easter.

Find the Apostle Paul’s letter called 1 Corinthians in the New Testament and read chapter 15 for a magnificent account. Here’s a sample:

“…For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time…

“…And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man…So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

‘O death, where is your sting?

O grave, where is your victory?’

“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What a glorious relief and privilege! The Good News has come to you and to me. Let’s embrace it. Believe it. Rest in it. And pass it on.

– Andrew M Clarke