Episode 1. God’s Stories
When you think about it, if Jesus is who He says He is, then He was able to choose the time, the circumstances and the place of His birth. So what does that tell us about God? Now, I don’t know about you but Christmas is a time, well it’s a time that makes me […]
When you think about it, if Jesus is who He says He is, then He was able to choose the time, the circumstances and the place of His birth. So what does that tell us about God?
Now, I don’t know about you but Christmas is a time, well it’s a time that makes me think; think about a lot of things. If God is God, why have Christmas at all? If Christmas is Christmas, why do we celebrate Christmas the way we do? I mean the name makes it pretty clear what it is, Christ – Christ-mas and yet it’s about turkeys and trees, presents and parties, holidays that people take whether or not they believe in this Christmas thing.
Now, I’m not one for the hype and the razzamatazz of Christmas, I like it quiet and intimate and what I love to do in these weeks heading towards Christmas is to head back to where it all began 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem in that stable. I’m not into the pantomimey Christmas either, no I like to head back and immerse myself in the reality. The donkey, the stable, that starry night, Gods story and as I was doing that recently I thought to myself, “what has this Christmas, Gods Christmas, tell me about God?”
Now, it’s funny, when you look at the symbols of Christmas, amazing what we do with them. Look at the candy cane, now here it is this white cane and it has 3 small red stripes around it and it has 1 big, red thick stripe on the white. What’s that candy cane all about? Have you ever wondered, “oh okay, we trot out these candy canes at Christmas time but why?” Well the confectioner who first invented the candy cane, he didn’t make it a candy cane at all.
Turn it the other way round and it’s a “J”, he actually made it a “J” for Jesus and the white was to symbolise the purity of the Son of God and the 3 small stripes were there to symbolise the stripes on His back when He was beaten at His crucifixion and the 1 big thick red stripe is to symbolise His blood. Yet we take the things of Christmas, the symbols, and we change their meaning, we reinterpret them.
I had quite a bit of time at Bible College to think about Christmas and God and a whole bunch of other things and you know the most profound thing I learned? At Bible College you learn to be a theologian, you take the stories of the Bible and you snip them up and put them in little piles, neat little piles. So I have a pile called the doctrine of the Trinity and I have a pile called the doctrine of original sin, I have a pile called the doctrine of incarnation. These little snippets of scripture and we think, “wow, you know, I think I understand God now.”
In a sense it’s not a bad thing to look through Gods word and to bring together “like” things and to get a really solid foundation from what we believe and what we understand. I mean the aim of that is to learn about and understand God and that’s why we have theologians, that’s what they do and you can kind of sit back satisfied and think, “that’s it, I’ve got God in a box and now I understand”.
But you know, the thing that I learned is that if I think that’s the end point, I think I’ve missed the point because God’s chosen way of talking to us is through the story in the Bible and one of those stories is the story of Christmas. It’s not some nice, neat, little doctrine of the incarnation, God speaks to us powerfully through His story and nowhere is that more true than in Jesus.
John, in his gospel, calls Jesus, “The Word. In the beginning was The Word” In other words, Jesus is God talking to us saying, ‘this is what I’m like’ and Jesus is unique, He’s the only person in all of history who could choose the place and the time and the circumstances of His birth. Let’s just think about that for a minute, He is unique, if Jesus is the Son of God, if He is who He says He is, then He got to choose where He would be born, when He would be born, what was going on around Him when He was born.
So the fact that Jesus was born in that little stable in Bethlehem, around the time of Herod and all that other stuff that was going on, was a deliberate choice by God, either that or He made a mistake. The question I have when I look at Gods stories is, “what is God saying to us about Himself through this story? What’s God wanting to say to you and me 2,000 years on about the way that Jesus came into the world?”
You see, as we look at this story on the program this week because we’re kind of heading towards Christmas and why wouldn’t we do that at this time of the year? As we look at this what we’re going to see is that’s it’s not some neat, theological text but it’s an outrageous story, it’s a startling story about how Jesus came into this world and for me, I’m someone who likes to think a lot and use my brain a lot and for me it’s a whole bunch easier to get immersed into the theology of the story. I love to use my brain but as much as that’s true the story itself is so much more real and engaging and it touches your heart.
We all kind of know how the Christmas thing goes I guess. Mary, she was a virgin and she was engaged to Joseph to be married and then an angel came and she fell pregnant through the Holy Spirit, well that’s what she said.
Do you ever think of what it was like for her, what a scandal it must have been? And then they had to trek to Bethlehem, this tough grind and they made it, this smelly horrible stable where Jesus was born. And then the visitors came, the shepherds and the wise men. What were they all about? And then King Herod tried to have Jesus killed and so Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee down to Egypt as refugees and all the 2 year olds around Bethlehem were murdered. And then they went back to Nazareth, this “nowheresville” where Jesus became a carpenter.
I mean, if Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God, then it makes Him the only person in history who could have chosen that time, that place, those circumstances in which to be born.
Bing! Wow! I never quite thought of it that way but this whole Christmas story is a deliberate choice of God. Okay, if that’s true, what does it tell us about God? Here’s Mary, this virgin, she’s engaged, she lives in a society where having kids outside marriage is something you get stoned to death for. Rumours, innuendo’s, scandal, God chose that and this horrible trek to Bethlehem when she’s almost at full term on a donkey. God chose that and there’s no room, there’s no palace, there’s no nothing except this stable. God chose that. And then they had to flee for fear of their lives. God chose that!
What does it tell us about God? When we go beyond the nice trite little pantomime, beyond the theology, we look at the story of God, the story of Christmas the way He chose to reveal Himself to us.
You know when I go into a crowded room with my wife Jacqui, I often don’t read well what’s going on in peoples faces and we’ll come away and Jacqui will say, “Gee, so and so didn’t look well today” or “So and so looked a bit testy today.” And I’ll go, “Ooh, did they?” I think there’s a danger, we look at this story in the same way, we miss what God is trying to say.
Christmas is about you and me, it’s about God speaking to you and me and today is just about asking the question, when you look at this Christmas story afresh and anew, as we’re going to do together on the program this week, what do you see? What does it speak about God? This deliberate choice of Bethlehem, the stable, the fleeing, the being a refugee.
What does it say to you about God? Come on, hard question. What does Christmas tell you and me about God, about Jesus?