Unwrap a Good Story
This Christmas and New Year, I'm unwrapping the gift of a good story.
The writers of the gospel narratives were working off some common material and common beliefs, although they also had different audiences and different purposes for writing. In the birth narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, two very different stories are told, but both are underpinned with hope towards a loving God in the face of an empire.
I think the reason the Santa narrative has always bothered me has little to do with whether or not it is true, but how uncompelling of a story it is. There are wonder and magic, which have a certain value, but the plot basically boils down to an omniscient guru/god enforcing moral conformity with judgment. Again, not compelling, deep, or nuanced at all.
In the gospel accounts, there is much to be encountered. In Matthew's account, Jesus is described as a coming king, and the story is framed around the fear of the powers that be and the recognition of his rule by foreigners. In Luke's narrative, Jesus' birth appeals to the common outsider (shepherds), again stirring hope. What is this? A story of an upcoming uprising? Insubordination? Revolution? What kind of leader will this Jesus be? This has the makings of a good story. Then what do we do? We domesticate the wildness of the text and of its characters with our collective deification.
We domesticate Jesus, the gospel stories and the messages they contain with our theologies and our cultures, such that, rather than being invited into the revolutionary ways of being Jesus is shown to unpack, we capitulate and reinforce the same kind of empire Jesus threatened.
I don't believe in a literal divine Jesus, yet I do believe what God and humanity are really like (and can be) are unveiled in this narrative. The character of God and the capacity of humanity are brought together in beautiful, prophetic and a symbolic narrative. This kind of storytelling that inspires so many reminds me that I want to live a good story, I want to read good stories, and I want to write a good story.
Maybe my story and your story won't fit neatly within the Biblical narrative(s), and that's okay. Yet I do believe these metanarratives can be good conversation partners for living a good story. I'm teasing out a story of vision, inspiration, transforming human relationships, of oneness and connection with self, other, God, and planet.
Our stories shape our lives as we play characters we believe and create... So let's read and write and live a good story.