Angels and shepherds got it right long ago. They learned of something good that only God could have otherwise known, and they spread the news.

Angels from the realms of glory sang creation’s story on that ‘O holy night of Jesus’ birth. Certain poor shepherds, in fields where they lay, heard the first noel the angels did say. And, after running away to the manger and seeing the infant holy, infant lowly, they could not contain themselves: They gossiped the good news all over the little town of Bethlehem.

Sound strange to hear that word – gossip – used to describe the telling of glad tidings, tidings of peace? Turns out gossip had a promising birth as a word.

It comes from God and sib, as in sibling or relation. Taken literally, it means related in the service of God. In other words, a gossip supposedly learns something only God could know and shares it on God’s behalf.

What a surprise! Webster’s Dictionary gives such a sweet root, yet the flowering of gossip is so bitter. Not one positive definition follows the glorious God-sib origin of gossip; only idle talk and groundless rumor define it both in theory and practice.

It’s a perfectly good word, gossip – unusual in being both a noun and a verb. Gossips gossip. Sadly, the words that gossips gossip are today seldom good tidings of great joy to all people. They are more demonic than angelic, designed to drag down rather than build up, to reveal hell more than heaven.

We have institutionalized ungodly gossip today. It once flourished over the back fence or across the tea table or under the dryer at the beauty parlor. It still shows up in those places, but now you can get it on TV in prime time, online all the time, and from tabloids in the grocery line.

We want to know the dirt on celebrities and neighbors both. We want to share the good news of where they go bad. We feel better to see them worse.

How did gossip fall from grace? The same way people do, of course.

James, the brother of Jesus (whose burial ossuary was recently discovered from Jerusalem) had much to say on the subject: How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…No one can tame the tongue – a restless evil full of deadly poison…From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

We may not be able to tame the tongue, but maybe we can bridle it. Let the tongue gallop to gossip good news, but pull back the reins when it wants to run wild.

Gossip this: Peace on earth, good will to men.