Its that most wonderful time of the year! when Michael Buble sings!
When tea towels are in short supply in schools, when donkeys get a winter task, when the story of Jesus’s birth is told and told and told. And acted out with children as narrators, actors and parents gushing, hoping that their precious doesnt forget their lines, and everyone does that cute thing.
And the mythical story of Christmas is sung, interestingly the church celebrated christmas for 300 years without appropriate carols – that might have been fun, now we sing of the stillness of Bethlehem, the meek Jesus, star of wonder, the bleak mid winter, songs that herald and worship Jesus. But is Christmas something that is told, read and sung?
The Story of Jesus is undoubtedly the greatest story ever told, but is it the actual story that is told and how is that actual story meant to be told?
If there are questions provoked by articles that Santa should be banned in churches (John Piper I am looking at you) – then the question is though the forces of commercialism thrive on the retelling of the ‘santa narrative’ which is magical, generous – is it not that the Santa narrative needs reducing, but that the church should revitalise, remythologise and reimagine the incarnation in new dramatic scenes. The church shouldnt worry about how everyone else celebrates Christmas, neither should it worry about analysis the facts of the story ( ie was it in a stable) – the true drama of Christmas is in its ongoing performance.
The question is not how is the Christmas story to be told – it is how is the Jesus story to be lived and acted – made dramatically real, dramatically magical, dramatically generous.
Yes the drama in the Jesus story is about homelessness, displacement, murder, vulnerability and obedience – it is also about a God that speaks, directs and asks tasks of those who will participate – and it was in a particular time, and place, and yet even then to rediscover the essence of the narrative is not to engage the current world in the same story. For it might be the greatest story ever told, it also needs to become the greatest drama to continually participate in. It needs to fuel the imagination in particular spaces – yes in live interactive productions- but Jesus was not consigned to history, yet was historically real. The present ness of God in the world, and yet might not of been poor, was born in reality in a situation of terror and fear.
To live the Christmas story is to re-imagine it in the new context, tell the old old story but in its reality, realise that God spoke and intercepted into human existence, and his drama is of goodness (Baltasar), a drama that will threaten the status quo, it will exist in the side streets and back alleys of the world, it will rest on those who can hear and respond in freedom to the call.
We need not a re-imagining of Christmas for a better telling of it, but a re-imagining that causes a better performance of it.
Do Christians just worship this historical event in Jesus, and profusely thank him for it, – instead of setting out on that same journey themselves? (Rohr on St Francis of Assisi in Eager to love)