Rt. Rev. Dr. Trevor H. Walters
A captivating story often has a baby at the centre of the tale. The birth is surrounded by great expectations, fear, questioned survival and some mystery. We are tantalized by the author who portrays young lovers, often with an aspect of forbidden love, questionable sexual activity, an untimely birth, and a race to a safe place for the birth.
The truly great stories depict a person or a couple who suffer great hardship. The sufferer longs for rescue, to come in from the cold into the arms of a loving family: Miracle on 34 Street comes to mind!
In our classic story narrative, we find the couple having an ‘awakening’, or a sudden dramatic shift in their world view. They now see the world in a dynamic new way that becomes a ‘road less travelled future’. The pursuers keep pursuing with evil intent, but the new, revealed certainty about the end of the story is now what motivates and empowers them.
Heroes and villains surround a good baby story. Gollum in Lord of the Rings has been seduced and then seeks alliances with wise men like Frodo and Sam. Gollum’s intent, alas, is to betray their trust. Power and royalty take centre stage in the great stories manipulating the actors. Sometimes it is royalty that is pursuing the young person: Cinderella comes to mind.
This awakening, in many memorable stories, comes in the form of an other-worldly creature or indeed angelic encounter: Touched by an Angel comes to mind! This encounter comes to the lowest, the least, and the underserving to thwart the proud, the positioned, and the powerful.
The drama then unfolds as life in occupied times: The Pianist comes to mind!
That brings me to a classic: the Christmas story! What makes this story timeless, transfixing and creates history, like no other story?
For a start. it is His-story. Every time you complete a credit card transaction this Christmas, you acknowledge History. The year you write into the upper right hand box calls us to remember the Year of Our Lord’s story.
History reminds us of a loving God sending His son to the world on a rescue mission. Enemy forces are determined to kill this baby. King Herod sets out to seduce the wise men to reveal the birthplace so he can kill this kid, rather than pay homage which is his tag line.
Mary is pregnant out of wedlock, suspicion flies around the personhood of the father. Joseph knows he is not the father and goodness knows is asked to believe that the father is not a human being.
The next phase of the story is a desparate search for a hospital. Will the mother need an epidural or episiotomy? Will the baby need intubation or incubator? Who will be the roommates on the ward? This dramatic birth narrative involves a poignant rejection of the pregnant couple, by the inn keeper and relegation to the animal stable. That answers the roommate question. The two previous questions are so far from this reality as to be deemed other-worldly.
Mary and Joseph look to come in from the cold, but it is humankind that is in the cold and needing an Inn in the Father’s house for safe keeping. This baby will, when an adult, provide, through his death, the means to come in from the cold, into the safe place of God’s forgiveness and acceptance.
Yes, of course, the story has Angels, wise men gifts and an escape to Egypt. It is Lord of the Rings, Miracle on 34 Street, Cinderella, the Pianist, Touched by an Angel and so much more.
It is His-story.
Rt. Rev. Dr. Trevor H. Walters is the Western Region Suffragan Bishop of the Anglican Network in Canada.
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