“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them…”
So begins arguably the most famous story of all time – told and re-told, year after year, through thousands of miles of tinsel and by tea towel clad shepherds and trembling narrators in school nativities.
Stories shape us. Consider the stories we tell over the table at a dinner party. The stories we choose to tell about ourselves not only recount our greatest successes and failures to others, they also reinforce our self-identity. They speak to us about who we are. We tell stories of challenges overcome, of achievements at work or on the sports field; stories of our children, our family and our origins.
Communities do the same thing; our communal stories tell of challenges overcome, of achievements, of family and origins.
Companies spend millions each Christmas with advertising agencies to pedal us a story – of the happiness and fulfillment which can be ours if we buy their products. Saturday night TV brings us fairytales of overnight fame and success. Stories of finding wealth and fortune abound.
Which is why I believe it is so important to tell other stories. Stories that challenge the way we think and how we think of ourselves.
The Christmas story tells of Kings and Shepherds; the rich and powerful and the poor and humble bowing down together before a helpless, new born baby. It tells us of the divine in the ordinary, of God born among us.
The story of Jesus tells of a different way of life. We tell this story because we believe that it shapes us. We listen in the hope that it will redeem us, save us and teach us how to find the life in all its fullness that Jesus spoke of.
What stories do you tell? Which stories should we as a society, a community tell?
I believe the ancient story of Jesus is full of wisdom – wisdom for life, wisdom for today.
Church is the community of people who meet each week around this story. Bessels Green Baptist Church meets together every Sunday morning to retell and listen to this story afresh. You can find more details on our website, bgbc.co.uk
Do you need a new story to live into? Why not join us, it might surprise you?
Image Credit: Flickr, violscraper