Updated: Jan 11, 2022
One of the things I really appreciate about this time of year is the spirit of goodwill that is in the air. From Thanksgiving through New Year's, I find that people are generally a little more festive, a little more generous, a little more joyful and a little more kind. It is almost as if the true meaning of Christmas is breaking through to infuse all of the external trappings that have been added on over the years. And as I enjoy experiencing that spirit of goodwill in the air, I often ask myself, "Could we do this all year long?" Is it possible for us to maintain a spirit of goodwill beyond the Christmas season?
Listen to the announcement of goodwill here in Luke 2:8-14: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
What we find in this most-quoted passage of Scripture is an announcement of goodwill. It is given to us as a gift. Meriam Webster defines goodwill as "a kind, helpful, or friendly feeling or attitude." And it fits. When we think about the mission of Jesus, goodwill is certainly something that he came to give. Jesus announced the goodwill of God towards all people. In a time when people may have felt that God was angry at them and out to punish them for their sins, the birth of Jesus creates hope that God's attitude is different. God sent his Son in a supreme act of goodwill towards all people. That's the gospel in a nutshell.
But now, the question remains, how do we practice goodwill towards all people all year long? Wouldn't that be an amazing world to live in, if everyone at least attempted this? I think we start with receiving the goodwill of God towards us as step one. When we know that God loves us and offers us grace instead of punishment, it begins to change the way we think about other people. We all have some part of ourselves that wants to hurt those who hurt us. That's the opposite of goodwill. That's vengeance. Of course, setting boundaries is always important, but the desire to harm others often goes beyond setting wise boundaries. And as tempting as it might be to want to indulge in it, vengeance will always leave us empty. Our hurt never goes away just because we successfully hurt someone else. The better approach is goodwill.
After we receive God's goodwill towards us in the person of Jesus, we are ready to let go of our need to punish others for their transgressions. We humbly see our need for grace and offer that same grace to others. We wish them well. We want life to work out for them. We want to make their day just a little better. Goodwill is really an attitude of the heart. When our heart is in the right place, we want to show kindness to others. We are willing to serve. And I can think of only one way to keep this going throughout the year. We can't rely on the environment around us to give us that feeling of goodwill. We need a living, daily relationship with God to help us generate that feeling even when the outside world doesn't support it.
I would invite you this week to receive the goodwill of God in the gift of Jesus. I would invite you to share that goodwill with family and friends and all you come in contact with. And then commit to practice goodwill all year long. Make it a way of life. God knows the world could sure use a lot more of it.
May you be filled with goodwill towards all people this week.