Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
With the first day of Advent arriving on Sunday, it’s a worthy moment to think about the journalism of Advent. Not the advent of journalism—but the kind of journalism that Advent encourages.
The book of Luke opens with the most oft-cited account of Jesus’ birth, but it also begins with a note from the author. We know that Luke was a physician and a companion of the Apostle Paul, but in the first four verses of his gospel account, Luke also sounds like a journalist.
He addresses his account to a man named Theophilus, and he highlights several realities that hold gifts as valuable as gold, frankincense, and myrrh for Christian writers willing to learn from Luke’s excellence:
• Luke tells his reader that “many have undertaken to compile a narrative” of Christ’s life. Luke wasn’t doing something no one else had done, but he clearly saw room to add to what already existed. It seems quite likely that among the “many” attempts, some were probably better than others, and Luke believed he had something to contribute.
• Luke’s sources were “eyewitnesses” to Christ’s life. He was plugged in to the community he was writing about, and he based his account on the testimony of people who saw events unfold firsthand.
• He had “followed all things closely for some time past.” Luke wasn’t a fly-by-night tweeter jumping into the fray with limited knowledge and quick conclusions. He valued the time he had spent learning and listening and investigating before writing.
• He aspired to write “an orderly account.” This took serious work. We know the Scriptures are inspired, but the Holy Spirit didn’t use stenographers. He used the hard work of holy men to write divine words. One can even imagine Luke making an outline, interviewing sources, fact-checking, spreading his notes on the floor.
• It “seemed good” to Luke to write an account. Not only did Luke think it was important to write a narrative, he thought it was good. Why? Because he had an audience in mind. He wasn’t writing to showcase his access to prominent New Testament leaders, but because he wanted his reader to “have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
So Luke undertook hard work, orderly work, and good work with a specific goal in mind: the good of others pursuing the glory of God.
Surely this serves as a template for a Christian journalist. When I’m tempted to think there’s nothing to add to a subject, it might be because that’s true. But if I’m aiming for the good of others and the glory of God, it’s possible there may be a way to tell a story many others aren’t telling that might accomplish those ends.
And I do think about you, most excellent reader, when I write. I do want your good. I don’t always succeed as I hope, but I do want to produce reporting that is orderly, reliable, and even inspiring.
I do think about you, most excellent reader, when I write. … I do want to produce reporting that is orderly, reliable, and even inspiring.
Let me be clear: What I write is not inspired. It’s certainly fallible, and on some issues it’s perplexing to find the proper path through. Sometimes I fail. But I still think Luke’s method offers something important to imitate.
I think that’s probably true in other work as well. You’re probably doing work that many other people are doing. You’re mothering or teaching or banking or fixing cars or building houses or doing many other ordinary things each day.
Like the reporter Luke, let this all “seem good” to you if you’re working with excellence and aiming for the good of others and the glory of God—whatever the context you’re working in.
I’m excited to think about how many stories are still left to tell both now and in the future. The Gospel of John ends by saying that Jesus did so many things during His lifetime that if all of them were recorded, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
I hope the new earth will.