A Different Christmas Story
One of my favorite videos floating around Facebook this holiday season was of a group of adults acting out the Christmas story as it was told by children. The children tell the story of Jesus’ birth from the time when the angel appears to Mary with the good news that she is to be the mother of our Lord up until the time when the wise men from the East arrive. Even though details of this story are found in different books of Bible, when they tell the story from memory and in their own words, the story becomes one coherent narrative. Which is pretty cool when you think about it. In a time when a number of adults might be hard pressed to tell the Christmas story from heart in their own words … these children pull together to different stories from the Bible and they get it right, in their own way.
And the adults, too, by acting out the story put their whole bodies into the telling of the story. People who study these things tell us that adding some kind of body movement to a story is a pretty good way to remember that story, too. It’s a great way to experience the Christmas story. Try acting it out as a family … or as a church sometime … as someone else is telling it.
John’s Gospel begins with a telling of the Christmas story in John's very unique way. John tells us that in the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God; the Word was God; then the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. Ah … that is true. Whether we read Matthew’s Christmas story or Luke’s Christmas story, the Holy Spirit lets us know very plainly that the child conceived in and born of Mary is of the Holy Spirit … the baby is Jesus, and Jesus is the Christ, and he is divine. Now the Holy Spirit through John tells us that the divine child is the Word of God … the Word that created all things, through whom all things came into being and without whom nothing exists … and that word is now enacted in the joining of the truly divine and truly human in Jesus Christ. John’s different story … as abstract or theological as it may seem helps us understand what’s going on with Mary and Joseph and the baby in the manger … with the angels and the shepherds … with the star and the wisemen. John’s telling adds depth and dimension to the familiar story … and by the Holy Spirit the living Word dwells and abides in us.
Like all good stories, the Christmas time is so simple a story that a child could tell it easily from heart. It’s so profound that we can meditate on its marvelous elegance for eternity and still be amazed at God’s wisdom in coming to save us in so great a way. By the Word taking flesh and dwelling among us. By the Word suffering rejection and betrayal, death and burial; By the Word taking life again … yet enfleshed and united with humanity in a vision of God’s promised resurrection. By God’s Word … enfleshed … we have been saved. In our hearing and learning this story, the Spirit bring this story to life in us.
Even more amazing for us is that by God’s coming to us, to be God with us and God for us, we have been brought into the story of God’s creation and redemption of the whole world. We know we were created. By this Word, we are redeemed, and by the Word we know that this flesh might fall apart or break down, but God will raise it up, recreating us by the Word. What’s more, the crucified, risen and ascended Lord is still visible and accessible in and through God’s people … those who have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, and when we gather around the table we hold and are nourished by the Word of God with Bread and Wine … the very body and blood of Christ that takes away all our sins and gives us his salvation.
So maybe one way to understand ourselves as God’s people is by returning again to the Christmas story as it is remembered and told by children in their own words and acted out accordingly. We hear God’s word and by the Holy Spirit it takes life within us … and living and working through us the Word lives in and through us, active and alive. We act out the story and by acting it out we remember the story and by remembering the story we are compelled by the Word living us to put it into action again.
In worship over this past week, we have read the three tellings of Jesus’ birth that we have in the Bible. It’s a special year that way. Each Gospel (except Mark), tells the Christmas story just a little bit differently. We put it into action in the ways that God has gifted each of us and each of our communities, different tellings, yet with the same witness to God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Each telling adds to the depth of our witness to God’s redemption and salvation. In the same way, you also are a telling of God’s story, another layer, an added dimension to the story of God’s salvation. The story is essentially the same … God’s Word came to life in us by the Holy Spirit and we live now by faith in the one who loved us and gave himself for us.
There are twelve days of Christmas ahead of us. In that time, you will meet with friends and family. You will eat and drink. You will share stories. It’s one of those Christmas cliches but true … the whole family gathered around, eating to hear the stories of Christmases past. Yet, the greatest story you ever tell is the story of how the Word of God was born in your heart through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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