Never just stories
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10, NIV)
Last year in this blog I mentioned that one problem with Christmas is that myth is blended in with reality - so in the school nativity play, you don’t just have baby Jesus, but reindeer, Father Christmas and so on. This builds a sense that it’s all a fairy story. I called it “Mythmas”!
But there is another problem: I have seen presentations of Christmas that try to tell the story without in any way showing us its meaning for today. If Mythmas makes us think the gospel narratives are untrue, this other problem makes us think they are also irrelevant.
But the gospel writers never let us hear the story alone, without wanting the reader to know its significance for us. Take the account in Luke 2:
1. The story begins with two great events: Caesar’s census and Jesus’ birth (verses 1-7). One would have been very visible - all over the front pages! The other was hidden and apparently of little significance. So little that there was no room even in the inn. Yet which of these two events has done more to shape human history? Luke is showing us how the living God will have His way, even though people may not at first recognise it.
2. Jesus is not any baby, but the promised Christ, or Messiah, born in David’s line (4, 11). This is the King God had ages before promised to send into the world. This is not just the birth of someone who went on to be great, but the culmination of the ancient promises of God, to sort out a world which has run away.
3. He has come to be a Saviour. Not an adviser, nor a philosopher; not just an inspirational teacher, or even leader of a religion, but a saviour (11). The very word Saviour carries with it the idea of rescue, and all the sense of urgency that save implies. It will prompt us to ask: “what’s the problem?” and “how did He solve it?”
4. He has come for ordinary people. The first people to hear the angels’ announcement were not the folks down at the temple, but out in the fields; not priests, but shepherds. The angel makes it clear that this is good news that will cause great joy for all the people (10). Was it the case in Luke’s day that people thought the message about Jesus was only of interest to the religious?
5. What has happened calls for a response. The shepherds say to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us about” (15). When they get there, they find it’s just as they’d been told. Isn’t the reader being urged to investigate, too?
I’ve only scratched the surface. But you get the idea. Luke doesn’t just want us to know the facts; he eagerly wants us to know what they mean, for us.
So when we’re singing carols or watching that school nativity, look out for the opportunity to drop in a few lines to friends about what the story actually means.
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