“God made man because he loves stories.”
There is a deeper suggestion in Elie Wiesel’s quote. God not only loves to hear our stories, but God loves to tell stories, ( “The Stories of God,” John Shea).
The story of Christmas is a most beloved one that inspires songs, parties, cards, gifts, sales, paintings, parades and travel, (“I’ll be home for Christmas…”). Each year the story brings hope to our tired and war torn world and joy to hearts that are empty and lost.
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The aforementioned stories and songs try to capture some of the mystery and magic of that first Christmas story. But none of these can fully convey the simplicity and power of the gospel story itself. Why does everything else come in a distant second to the story of Christmas as told by Luke?
Because Luke is a great writer? That he is. Consider the pictures Luke paints with his words: “The Good Samaritan,” “The Prodigal Son,” “the Publican and the Pharisee at prayer,” and so much more — a genius at work. But is Luke’s genius the reason why his Christmas story is so striking, so penetrating? To some extent, yes, God surely knows how to chose his instruments.
But, as you might suspect, there is something more than Luke’s genius at work here. And what is that something more? It is a love so passionate that it bursts forth with a story that captures our hearts and imagination. It is a love so deep and eternal that it decided even before there was time and space, to become flesh and dwell among us.
The Lord of heaven and earth wanted to pitch his tent among us and to become one of us. Every love — but especially this divine love — seeks union and communion. He comes to us, not as magistrate and general, but as a baby, born in humble surroundings and revealed first to shepherds, the poorest of the poor. He comes to us in stark vulnerability, and later, as a man he will say, “let the little children come unto me…for it is to such as these the Kingdom of heaven belongs, “ (Mark 10).
The hymn, “Silent night, Holy night,” O’Henry’s short story, “The Gift,” “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” each tries, in its own way, to capture some of the transformational experience of the Word becoming flesh and remaining among us. That Word, who inspires sharing, sacrifice and generosity, is an image of the divine love which can do only one thing: give itself away.
Why is the gospel story the bedrock, the source of all the outpouring and goodwill we know as the Christmas season? Because it is an inspired story. Leonardo Da Vinci was inspired, Greg Allman was inspired, Tom Brady is inspired. But Luke, and the other writers of scripture, are inspired in a way that goes beyond human art, music and athletic prowess.
“There were shepherds in the fields keeping night watch over their flocks…” This is God’s story!
The Rev. Fred Nijem is pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Warner Robins.