Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Think When I Read That Sweet Story of Old

each advent season i begin to think of the beauty of the story of the birth of jesus in matthew’s and luke’s gospels.  i am reminded of the visits of the archangel to mary and joseph, the search for a place to rest when mary and joseph travel to bethlehem, the visit of the angels to the shepherds which leads the shepherds to the manger to worship the child, the travel of the magi to bethlehem and their encounter with herod.  it’s a beautiful story, and i wonder if the insistence that it is literally true—that all the debate about the virgin birth, the questions about who the wisemen were and how to explain their guiding star, the lack of evidence in the historical records of a slaughter of innocents in herod’s attempt to eliminate a potential rival, and all the need for proofs that a literal reading of the story entails—obscures the real meaning of the records of jesus’ birth.

what if we look at the accounts as a way of understanding that there is a God who cares about us collectively and individually?  isn’t that what jesus’ birth, life of ministry, death, and resurrection are all about: that a loving God desires a relationship with us that compels us to love one another?  as i think of the story with its theme of God coming into the world through the person and teachings of jesus, i am not concerned with the question of whether jesus is the embodiment of God or whether each incident reported in the gospels is literally true.  instead, i am looking for the lessons that these stories teach us about who God is and how God relates to all of creation.

here are some things that stand out to me in the stories of jesus’ birth:  first, God is not just a God of an obscure tribe in asia minor, rather God is the God of all creation.  second, God can use the humblest of God’s creation to show us how to embody loving-kindness.  third, “peace on earth” is a central mission that God challenges us to make real as we let go of the need for power and wealth, looking instead to the needs of others.  finally, just as the star shed its light, so we can shine light into the darkness of the world by the way we live our lives.

my prayer for myself and others this season of light is that we set aside the need for proofs and certainties, and look instead in our hearts for the truth that God places there.  May we truly love one another, seeking peace and understanding that transcends ego and self.  shalom.

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