Twas the day After Christmas and the Christmas Baby (that would be me, born on the 25th) had one more brief word to say before Christmas fades away for another year …
I enjoy the natural gifts of this season–the Winter solstice. I like to put up some lights, a small artificial tree, exchange a few gifts, connect with people I love. I’m not against Christmas, but it seems many people simply overlook The Story itself. They cover it up with Tradition or Theology. Liberal and Conservative Christians get caught up in the same Christmas Dream.
IF the whole story was told, or seriously read, would anyone truly believe it, or tell it over again year after year?
Even if you’ve heard the story all your life, and even if you haven’t, even if you’re the most hardened atheist, I suggest you read the story of the birth of Jesus in Matthew or Luke. It will only take a few minutes, but take it slow. Ask yourself what the main characters would be thinking, feeling. Reflect on what they did, and how YOU might act in a similar situation (if anyone could ever be in the same situation).
-Would you do whatever a dream told you to, if you thought you heard the Voice of God?
-If you were a girl who suddenly found you were pregnant, what would you tell the boy you were engaged to; what would you tell your parents?
-What sort of Deity would impregnate a young girl to “enter the world”?
-Imagine you were the child’s (human) father. What’s going through your head?
-How would it feel to be traveling while pregnant (because the government required a census), giving birth in a cold, dirty barn, surrounded by strangers who told you the child was a “Savior,” a “Lord”?
-What would it be like to be forced to flee the country because the local ruler was out to get your child? You could hear children being massacred in villages you passed through and knew it was because of you, that soldiers were looking for you, to kill your baby.
That’s pretty much the story, folks.
No sweet and sanitized version. No trees, carols or santa in sight or sound. No neatly wrapped presents or colored lights, no happy children’s faces or poinsettia-decorated church services with angelic choirs singing by candlelight.
A story to read and wonder: Honestly, what is the message? What would I do? How could this story be told realistically? Does it truly have meaning in our world today? Is it a story of faith, of a God incarnate in human flesh, or a cautionary tale about the consequences of believing incredible dreams, incredible stories, in uncertain times? Is it not fundamentally a story of violence in violent times, of vulnerable people seeking to survive?
Finally, the old question: what do our annual traditions have to do with the actual story in the gospels?
I’d be interested to hear your take-away from the story.
Probably not possible to shed eighty years of teachings about the story… but trying, I think it’s a story of hard times, oppression, needing help – how the world is a dark place, and the help must come from the outside – specifically, in hierarchical form – a rescuing king.
We Protestants pretty much skipped over the Magnificat, with its Poor People’s Campaign – ditto the refugees to Egypt – tho in recent decades I’ve been hearing more of that highlighted. At the time of Sandy Hook, the Coventry Carol helped express the inexpressible sorrow.
This year, listening to the old community choir concert since we can’t be singing a new one (woe), what is striking me is the hierarchical language so much throughout: King of Kings! Lord of Lords! Also the idea of the world being a dark place, and any good that comes must come from outside, not from within.
We annually sing a piece written by a local musician, and every year this line in particular seems to grow more poignant: “…into a world that has lost its way.”
“Light from a stable now quenches the darkness; hope to a world that has lost its way. / Our God is here, O my soul, take this comfort: near to this Light, the night is as day!/ Peace to the world; our Savior is born! Glory to God; He is Christ the Lord!” [“Peace to the World,” Mike Moose; really moving with bells, organ, piano] This year I am thinking how needing to be lifted up is this amazing, awesome surge of goodness, integrity, and heroism that has been welling up from within!
Peaceful holidays, Elizabeth. I agree, light in the darkness is good to kindle, and sing about. The hierarchical, triumphalist distractions are disappointing, year after year. More light!
I really like the “kindling light” image — I’ve been thinking that I can’t imagine images with the power that the traditional story’s evokes… this helps. Thank you!