Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

Random House defines a word as a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning. When John writes that "In the beginning was the Word," what he means then is that before anything was created, there was an idea, a medium through which God could make his will known, and through his words, create the heavens and the earth.

So before there was a story to be told, there was the thing that is and always was, the way to tell a story. This is what I was thinking about on Christmas. I was thinking that as far as stories go, the story of Jesus is an interesting one. Forget everything you know about Christianity, the big-box churches, the scandals, and about Christians, the ones you see in the news these days with the signs stating that "God loves dead soldiers," all those terrible things that may or may not come to mind when the word "Christ" is mentioned. And start at the beginning, as if you haven't heard the story a thousand times. Think of a man, with all the powers of God and all the feelings of a human being. He could have had all the riches of the world, he could have been a ruler of nations, he could have had a glass of water all those days in the desert. But he never did, he just made every right decision in love. In the story he was scared, and in one of the most revealing statements in the Bible says "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will." In that one statement he is all man, and all God. In the end, we kill him, because he's not who we expect him to be, or because he was causing too much trouble, or because he was upsetting the natural order of things, or because we simply don't understand.

There are many stories about good and evil, very intricate ones, that could very well spawn future religions. Like Star Wars. But the Bible is still the #1 Bestseller in the world, over two thousand years after the stories were written. Why hasn't it ended up with Beowulf on some eight-grade reading list? Because it's a story about God coming down to earth, not as a ruler but as a sort of teacher or a guide, or as "Doubting" Thomas said when Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, "Lord, I don't know who you are." He's different things to different people and I think that that's part of the reason the story has remained alive. We get to be a part of His story in that way. As humans we're story tellers. It's in us, and if you believe the Bible story, that quality was there even before creation, before time, space, all of it. The Word. To me, anyway, my faith is not in what people say about what people said, it's not in big boxes and picket lines, it's in the story. It's in the Word, that principal carrier of meaning.

Merry late Christmas everyone, also happy holidays to those of you not celebrating Christmas!

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