We listened to a fun book today. As a family we really enjoy books. Every Christmas there are several stories that we pull out and read through. Some deserve the audiobook version. Our old favorite is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (read by Jim Dale). Out new favorite, and audiobook of the day, is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.
The book is about a group of incorrigible kids who end up staring in the local church Christmas pageant, and the hilarity that ensues. By the end of the story, the true meaning of Christmas is still seen, even through the strangest of circumstances.
We only discovered this book a few years back. It, however, was written in 1971. The characters were written so well that they have stood the test of time and the story is just as relevant as ever.
While listening through the story, I was struck by how my perception of some of the biblical events shifted a bit due to the way the story was presented. I grew up going to church. I have heard the Christmas story all my life. Hearing it told through this medium made it stand out to me differently. Let me explain.
The kids in the book didn’t know the Christmas story at all. They were appalled that a pregnant woman wasn’t able to find any room in the inn and was forced to stay (and have a baby!) in a stable. They were angered that King Herod tried to trick the wisemen and that he had so many children and adults killed. The kids in the story, who were actually hooligans, had a perfect sense of what was right and what was wrong. In the story they were so upset with the injustice that they wanted to rewrite the Christmas pageant and string Herod up at the end of it.
I have to admit that, even though this was a comedy story, my own paradigms on the Christmas story were thrown into a different light. Why have I not examined this story more closely and asked these kinds of questions? I think I have examined them some over the years, but have gotten a bit lax the older I have gotten.
Mary and Joseph were a younger couple. Mary was a teenager. They had traveled from their home to Bethlehem for the census. It was not a comfortable trip. It couldn’t have been. Mary was almost full term. They both faced loads of uncertainty. It couldn’t have been easy being away from home. She was, after all, having a baby. Yet, God was in the middle of it all.
While listening today, the Christmas story got a lot more real. The reason that we celebrate did as well. Through that whole scene of stables and cattle, wisemen and shepherds, angels and miracles, it was made very apparent that I need to engage with this story so much more. This is the story of Emmanuel, the God who is with us. It is the story of the God who is still with us.
An old story became new again today. It makes me wonder…how many times do I think I know the story (any story), when it is past time for a fresh perspective? How many times do I miss critical things, because I think I have it figured out? I have a hunch that the same thing may have happened to you. The old story became new again. I am thankful for that.