December 17, 2017 – The Nativity Stories

Text: Luke 1:26-38, 46-55


Last week, Peace showed me his assignment, a first-person narrative essay. He wrote a story about our family trip to Pine Point Rapids last summer. It was one of the most memorable trips, especially for Peace. The 8.2 km trail was worth hiking as the route took us out to a spectacular rapids where we picnicked beside the rushing water. The Whiteshell River gushes over a bed of granite in a series of rapids before subsiding in a quiet pool. The view is breathtaking and people of all ages love sliding into the rushing water. We, the family of four broke into pairs – Ha Na and Peace made a more adventurous team enjoying the %100 natural waterslide, while Jab-bi and I were exploring our small adventure within our limits. The sound of the rapids drowned out our voices, and the length of the rapids separated the two teams. The adventurous team went further and further until I could no longer see them. My team went back to where we began near the picnic table to get our clothes and shoes. We were supposed to meet there. So, we were waiting, but they didn’t come. We continued to wait until I heard Ha Na’s voice calling me to get over there. “It’s so beautiful here, you have to see this.” And then something happened to Peace.

The following is an excerpt from Peace’s essay, Pine Ridge Rapids – Why I am scared of deep water:

I knew I shouldn’t, but it looked so fun! I poked a foot in the water, then realized how slippery it was. I fell, and I tried to cling to the ground, but it was like grabbing paint as a rope. The current smashed into me, and I couldn’t see a thing. The next thing I knew, everything was black. I realized I was underwater. I desperately groped to the top. I grasped, and realized how far I was from land. There was something hard behind me, and I realized it was a tiny rock holding me. I silently whispered the prayer for that rock that saved me. Then I realized how slippery it was. My fingers couldn’t hold it much longer – and if I just let go to let it hold my back, I would plunge head first into the forbidding water. I screamed for help, but it seemed as if nobody heard me. And I couldn’t swim – I was too panicked. I saw tiny figures back at ground level, and one of them swam towards me. At last, when I couldn’t last longer, the figure grabbed me. I grasped for the biggest breath of air I had ever breathed. “Thank you.” I whispered.

What’s interesting about the story Peace wrote and read in his Grade 6 class was that he got mixed up with Ha Na and me. In his story it was me who went sliding with him, while Ha Na was with Jah-bi. He didn’t remember exactly, but captured the essence of the story well that he could have drowned but was saved by a stranger. And that’s more important than any other details. Right after Peace read his assignment, the whole class dropped into silence being amazed at the story.

Stories shape our lives. They change us perhaps more so than we change them. We all have a story that we have lived by – the story of how our parents or grandparents survived the hardship, fought the good fight, and how we came to be. We let the story breathe new life into our lives every time we share the story. The accuracy of the story with exact details doesn’t really matter – whether it happened this way or that way, or who did what. What really matters is the message the story carries. The story travels and bridges generations. We make the story our own by adding, omitting or mixing up in a way that is most meaningful to us. More importantly we keep it alive by telling it.

The gospels are made of stories. They are not first-person narrative. They were written several decades after Jesus’ death by the communities who followed his way of life, and remembered him. They breathed new life into the stories as the stories breathed new life into their communities. They didn’t make up the stories. Instead, the stories made them: their identity, their life-style, and their relationships with each other and to the world. The living Christ was experienced in their midst. So, it would be fair to say that they were living the stories, which continued to unfold. They made the stories theirs by omitting, adding or mixing together, but more importantly by telling the stories. That’s why we have four different gospels telling the same story differently or telling different stories. Though they all proclaimed the same Christ, how they spoke of Jesus was different in terms of their locations and their communities.

The stories have travelled far and wide, and reached out to us through many generations. Our task is to keep them alive by telling them in terms of our location and our community. So, the question is how do we tell the stories? Although I enjoy the Christmas pageant every year, it gives us an impression that we’ve done our job by repeating the exact same lines as they are written in the Bible. I don’t think we are invited to be Mary, Joseph, shepherd or Magi as described in the Nativity story. I believe, instead, we are invited to find Mary, Joseph, Shepherd or Magi who already exist in this world.

There are countless Marys in the world who are not recognized as leaders but speak God’s truth – God will bring down the powerful and will lift up the lowly. They are the ones who are perplexed sometimes but are spirited and determined and say yes to God’s will. They are blessing bearers, actively and boldly partnering with God who makes all things new. There are countless Josephs in the world who are torn apart between the conventional belief or custom and what they are called to do; Josephs who show us that even our reluctance and uncertainty can be necessary part for the bigger picture. There are countless Shepherds in the world who are at the bottom of the society, who work so hard but earn less, whose experience of oppression is a daily thing, but nevertheless keep watch over their flock, their families and communities. There are countless wise ones in the world who keep on searching for the unknown beyond their boundaries, and keep on following the sign of hope, and keep on trusting in the Great Mystery disobeying the power of the world.

Where we find Mary, Joseph, Shepherd and wise ones, there will we find the living Christ. Our Christ comes to be born again and again in so many different places. The nativity story continues to unfold. We can keep the story alive, and make it ours by telling a first-person narrative story. No matter how different our stories are, they all carry the important message – how God loves the world, and restores it with all of her children.