As a child, I loved the classic Christmas movies. Do you remember them as well? We had “Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” We had “The Grinch” and “A Christmas Story.” These stories were so often in rotation that it would almost feel wrong if we didn’t see them at Christmas time.
What is it about these stories though that make them so captivating? Quite often we find that stories shape traditions, and traditions shape cultures. We share these stories year after year, and generation after generation, and to what end? The preservation of an idea. They typically have something to teach along the lines of generic joy, or selflessness, or the protection of outcasts. But even these, for all their Christmas cheer, fail to get at the heart of Christmas in broad terms. Christmas is often depicted as one story isolated from the rest. But its beauty and wonder can only be understood as one domino in the long line of God’s plan.
One of the ways churches can grow in seeing this crucial part in light of the whole is by recognizing that our worship is draped in stories. In the Bible, we find history, poetry, wisdom, proverbs, prophecy, parables, ancient biographies in the Gospels, letters, and even an apocalypse. The Bible is not merely a book, its a library. Churches that commit themselves to regularly reading large sections of various books help orient their people to the wider story of God’s plan of redemption.
When I consider all that God has given, I find it fascinating that He chose to teach His people through all these genres. What is most intriguing is that God chose to teach us about Himself through stories. Is this how you teach people about God? Usually, our discipleship can be limited to “do’s” and “do not’s,” but God doesn’t limit Himself to this one mode.
Let us consider a story ourselves. Think about your Christmas traditions. As we reflect on our traditions, we find that usually we hand down traditions through stories. Generally, you say or hear things like, “Do you know that your grandmother used to bake cookies with me just like this?” or “Grandpa used to love praying before we opened the presents. That’s why we do it.” It’s not a simple command: “Bake cookies!” or “Pray now!” There’s an air of beauty and warmth as we consider that our acts, simple as they may appear, are bound with a generation before us. There is continuity that is meant to frame us in a larger story that exceeds even us.
We are often so quick to hand down traditions through stories. Are we as quick to teach others the things of God through stories? We do that for our little ones, but even us big folk need stories just as much as they do. As we consider the story of Christmas, we must not limit ourselves to only the baby in the manger, but consider the whole of the story of Jesus. The baby of Bethlehem did not stay a baby. He grew into a man who told stories Himself.
You have an amazing opportunity this Advent season to tell others about the goodness of the Christmas story again. Like our own traditions, this story only grows sweeter the more we share it. Unlike our own traditions, this story is not only to be found in our homes but in every home. The love of God needs to come to every heart. But it can’t be displayed through you unless it has come to you. One function of the Advent season is to carefully consider your heart and see where Christ needs to come and save you and deliver you. This season, as you consider the story of a Savior coming to earth, pause to savor the sweetness of Jesus and then share that goodness with those around you.