December 2019 & January 2020

Once upon a time………

It was the Jewish practice to teach using stories. This was obviously the method that Jesus, being a good Jew, used himself. It is also the method used by those telling the life and teaching of Jesus. The idea was that it was up to the person hearing the story to try too work out what that story was saying to him or her.

That, I do not feel, is the way in which we use stories. We seem to regard stories simply as stories without worrying too much about their message. Not only that, we cute like to embellish stories and then get all excited if anyone questions the details of our stories. Such is the case when it comes to the story/stories about Christmas. There are two accounts of Jesus’s birth, one in the Gospel of St Matthew and one in the Gospel of St Luke. And they are both different and incompatible, not because one is historically true and the other one isn’t ,but because in each case, the writer of the gospel made up a story to tell a particular truth about Jesus. But that isn’t the way in which we see things, so we have a nativity story which combines the two, rather uncomfortably, and then we add further details, which are regarded as indispensable. So, if you try to put on a Nativity Play without any reference to donkeys, there will, I promise you, be trouble, although there is no mention of donkeys in either gospel account, and when we get to the story of the Epiphany, when Jesus became know to the world, the essential point seems to be that there were Three Kings, despite the facts that the word ‘three’ does not appear in the -one - gospel account and, whoever these people were, they certainly were not kings.

I hope that as, during the two months covers by this newsletter, we pass through the season of Advent, on through to Christmas and then on to Epiphany, we might just use that time, as we hear again the stories of John the Baptist, of Mary and of Joseph, when we listen to the extraordinary vision of God our creator becoming in the baby Jesus a human being, when we hear of Jesus being accepted and worshipped first of all by the outcasts of society (i.e. shepherds) and by foreigners (i.e. whoever those strange people were bringing strange gifts) we might just be ready to give some time wondering what the stories might be saying to us. 

For God became a human being not to say to us that we have got it all right and need to change nothing, but rather to help us see the world through his eyes, and most of all to help us to see all our fellow human beings as people equal in his eyes, all of us loved and forgiven, and all of us enabled and equipped to make the world a better place. I just have a gentle suspicion that if we were to focus on all of that rather than the means by which the gospellers tried to tell their message, then we might just all have an even happier and more meaningful Christmas.