December 19, 2012 by rebelwithalabelmaker
…We rounded the corner this particular year, and gazed upon the scene of baby Jesus in the manger, with a sign that said “The Christmas story”.
“The… Christmas… Story.” read little Eric, slowly sounding out the words. Then he looked at me and said “tell me the Christmas Story,”
They had a vague idea of the main points, but between public school and Unitarian Sunday School, nobody had ever told it to them in it’s entirety.
I was tongue tied for a moment. I was thinking of the time they saw a picture of Noah’s Ark and asked me to tell that story, and what a complete disaster I made of it. Partway through they wanted me to elaborate on the “God” character, who I’d kind of given the impression was like a big talking raincloud. Then I realized I’d never really explained all about God to them—they were so small—and I really wanted to do it justice, so I launched into what different people around the world believe and then their eyes glazed over because boy do I know how to boring up a good story about a floating zoo and a talking raincloud.
So before launching into the Christmas story, I paused for a minute. I looked at the scene depicted in the lights, and I decided not to tell the boys the Christmas story, but to tell them our Christmas story. To do what people have done with Bible stories–with any stories–for centuries. Tell the story not as it originally may or may not have happened, but as a myth. A story that relates to the people listening in the moment.
Well, a long long time ago, there lived a woman named Mary–who was, I believe, very young–hardly more than a girl. Mary had a baby growing inside of her—which was a problem in some ways. You have to have a special kind of cuddle to get a baby inside you, and Mary was supposed to wait to do that until she was married. Now maybe she didn’t wait, or maybe the baby got in there some other way, but either way Mary was in Trouble. She was scared because everybody would be angry with her, and because she had to push that baby out, which really hurts, and because once it was out she would have to take care of it. Which isn’t very easy either.
To make matters worse, someone was after Mary’s baby. Someone wanted to kill it–so she was really scared. And it was also tax time which for some reason meant they had to travel a long ways because back then they hadn’t yet invented paperwork.
They had traveled very far, on a donkey–which is incredibly uncomfortable, and Mary was exhausted when she started to feel a great pain in her tummy. The baby was coming. At home, there would have been people to help her who had pushed out babies themselves, but they were far away where they knew nobody. Her husband Joseph went from hotel to hotel asking for a room, but nobody had any space for them. Finally, someone let them use the barn, which was filled with animals and pokey straw and poop. Mary had to push the baby out in the middle of the barn, with no idea how to do it and feeling for all the world like she wasn’t strong enough.
But something amazing happened. It turned out that Mary was strong enough, and her body showed her what to do. And as she sat there looking down at her baby she was filled with the most amazing love for her little boy. And in that moment, she was no longer a scared young woman huddled in a sea of night with a powerful man trying to hunt her and her family. She was no longer far from home–because the love and hope that filled her heart made whatever place she was in become her family’s home. The straw felt softer, and the animals were quiet and calm, and she and Joseph cuddled the baby and Mary realized that love makes a family wherever you are.
And we tell that story at this time of year, when the days are short and it’s easy to be filled with gloom as we wait for the sun to return, to remind ourselves that each of us carries light inside of us, and that nothing that is going on around you can keep you from letting that light shine.
“I think there is something else in that story.” said Eric, through narrowed eyes. “I think maybe you forgot a part.”
“Yeah. There’s a star.” Piped up Anthony.
“Right.” I said “Um… Have you ever noticed how when a place is filled with good feelings everybody wants to come over? Well, Mary created such a happy home that shepherds and angels and wise men wanted to come and they even brought gifts so that Joseph and Mary weren’t so poor any more. They found their way using the star—and now the picture of the star shining over the stable reminds us how when we let our light shine people will want to come and be a part of that.”
It’s a nice story. It was a nice moment, too, until Eric said “now tell us about Hannukah”.
That didn’t go at all well.