This past Wednesday night, our church had a community Christmas party called Christmas REMIX. We celebrated all over the building, and my part in it all was to help create an experience – Enter the Story – to help connect us to the nativity, to give all of us a chance to slow down and remember. I thought I might share a little of that experience here. That night, small groups of people were led by a guide through a large open room in near darkness. They came upon simple scenes while hearing these words from their guides.
This Christmas story is a familiar one.
Many of us know it word for word, the well-worn patterns tracing their way through our lives from our childhood. It’s hard to grow up in this part of the world and not have some knowledge of Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And still, we forget.
We remember the star, but forget the blackness of the night. We remember the angel, but forget the fear. We remember the characters but forget the story.
The nativity – as we like to think of it – is something small enough to put into a box, put into place with our hands. But this is not a carefully arranged scene. This is a story, larger than us in every way, waiting for us to walk right in.
And so we invite you tonight to drop your preconceived notions, to loosen your grasp on the familiar and well known. Come, with empty hands.
Enter the story.
The story begins, as so many do, at the place where something changes. News is delivered; an announcement is made.
Nothing will ever be the same again. For the whole world, but especially for these two.
A girl grasps at understanding, asking what will happen? She has no answers, only the promise of an angel. An angel. Try telling that to your mother. Or your fiancé.
Does it help to know the truth if no one else does?
A young man watches as his dream shatters. He has no hope, only this impossible situation that he did nothing to create. He faces the scorn of others, the ache of his own broken heart.
Does it matter what the truth is if you can’t see it?
And now, enter in.
This Christmas, are you facing something overwhelming – the questions going round and round in your brain? Something that will probably be misunderstood by everyone around you.
What will happen?
And now the story takes an interesting turn. It’s time to share the news: but with whom?
there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field
In other words, there were some people living out in the hills, taking care of animals.
To say they were unprepared for such an announcement would be an understatement. All that they were concerned with could be found right in front of them. Their days blending together – waking and working and sleeping and eating and waking to do it again – with little time to wonder and dream.
The shepherds are simply unaware.
What about you?
This Christmas, are you so busy – your hands so full with the task in front of you – that you have no time to stop and look?
When the announcement comes, will you hear?
They were wise. Planners, strategists, kings.
Driven by their studies, they traveled far to meet another of their kind – a new ruler, born King of the Jews.
But with all they had learned – with all they had plotted and charted and thought well through…it seems that something happened once they saw the newborn king.
Their plan, quite simply, changed.
Could it be that knowing something is different than seeing someone?
Could it be that even the best plans and preparations cannot contain everything that this season holds?
Maybe this is your part of the story. Maybe you like to know, to prepare, to plan. But in all that – in the structure you create, in the ways that you manage the season, in the preparation…
Do you know?
Is there space and room for possibility?
Might there be more?
Finally, a lesser known part of the story.
Simeon – a man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel.
A man who longed for better things for his people, justice for his nation. A man who hoped for a better world.
Anna, a widow. Alone.
Her life became a constant reflection of her faith. She too was waiting.
Waiting. Hoping. Longing. Praying. Fasting. Waiting.
This Christmas, are you waiting? Maybe for something to happen, or for someone to come back…
Perhaps you are weary, your hope worn tired and thin.
Perhaps it has been a long time. Too long, you think.
When the world seems dark and strange – when you feel so very alone – how are you supposed to just keep waiting?
The good news is this: no matter where you are in your story, in this story –
Afraid, brokenhearted, overwhelmed
Ever so busy in the life that you have made
Unaware, or knowing too much
Full of plans or simply waiting
The good news is this:
The God of the Universe wants to enter your story.
He wants you to enter His.
He is full of power and glory like the angels,
He is as humble as the babe in the manger.
And he is here.
What will you do?