I got a message on Wednesday from a friend asking me whether my family would like to take a few minutes to tell the Christmas story in a creative way in church during our evening time together to fellowship and sing carols. It was quite odd, but I felt wild, and I put my better reasoning behind me, stuck my head in the ground so that I wouldn’t be able to see the practical problems of the lack of time, and said ‘Sure!’
6 hours later, I had just finished writing the story with parts for my wife Lydia and daughter Hannah as well. I had wanted to listen to a flute piece called Suspiro del Moro by Xavier Paxariño while thinking of a ‘creative way of telling the Christmas story’, as my friend put it. Suspiro del Moro is an extraordinary piece of music; very short, but it tears you apart. The first time I listened to it, I had no idea of its background, and I was in tears as vision upon vision of Gethsemane came into my mind. The thing is that every time I think of Christmas, I end up thinking of the cross, and I guess that’s why Xavier Paxariño’s piece came to mind. However, I couldn’t find it to listen to, so I chose one of my favourite Celtic instrumental pieces called He Was Pierced instead. There it was again. The Cross instead of the Cradle. How would I celebrate Christmas with its iconic atmosphere of joy, cheer and goodwill, if every time I end up thinking of a brutal execution stake?
I think that’s the point. Of all cradles, Jesus’ hung intentionally under the shadow of the cross He was to die on years later. When the angels declared to the astounded shepherds ‘…and on Earth, peace among people of goodwill.’, Isaiah, had already written about the Messiah long before in these words, The disciplining that makes us whole fell on Him, and by His bruises we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5. The peace we enjoy came sacrificially from God, with unbearable pain at its heart taken upon Himself. I find myself trying to balance the two, the joy of salvation’s gift, and the knowledge that the chastisement meant for me was put on His willing shoulders. I want to celebrate all the warmth, cheer and generous joy of Christmas without losing sight of how much it cost God. It’s terrible that what Christmas really means is so lost in the glitter and triteness that commercialization has made it.
I thought I’d share the story my family and I narrated in church yesterday. It might make this a longish post, but then if you’ve come this far reading it, I hope something creative might encourage you to read further. I’ve ended the story with something I’d written in a previous post. I had our names before each line so that we would know which one to read, but I’ve changed that here to who they’re meant to represent. I’m certainly not reinterpreting the Biblical narrative, and certainly not adding my own theology, but I do believe that creativity can help us delve deeper into Biblical truths and encounter them in fresh ways.
Father – It’s all ready now. Everything is in place, and waiting. Shall we start?
Son – Let’s look it over first. Is EVERYTHING planned for?
Spirit – Space and time will be woven and stretched; the patterns will be wonderful, and universes within universes will be born, and eternity will be ready to be placed within their hearts.
Son – Light and dark will be separated, laws and boundaries will have been declared and laid down.
Spirit – I will sit over all the chaos like a hen on her eggs, and I will birth order just like you wanted. But we’re wild and go where we will, and I will also put our wildness and life in everything.
Son – I will build matter and substance, and put our wonder in the smallest and the biggest. I will take the star seed and scatter it over the skyfields, and on all worlds I will sign our name and teach every atom to sing our song.
Father – That’s how I see it should be. I know it will be good because we will have taken the greatest care to make the best, and it’s just the way I think it must be. I want life and substance where there is none.
Son – And I will take the elements and form stories with life in them, that they will be living poems and letters of everything we will have done, on the land, in the sky and in the waters.
Spirit – And I will make them the living and the growing and the multiplying, of every shape and form and type, and fill all domains of the world with them. And they will be glad when I touch them and love them, and bind them into webs and embroideries of life.
Father – And when I bless them and declare my love over them.
Son – And when I walk in their midst after I make them.
Father – Yes, EVERYTHING is there and will be ready to receive them. What will they be like?
All three – Let’s make them in our image, like reflections of us, so that when they walk, our shadow may fall on everything. Let’s make them like us so that they may learn how to be one like we are one. And let them be our children who carry our plans, characteristics and nature, and multiply them forever in all worlds. And let them sit with us on our throne.
Father – Can you imagine what it will be like? We will walk with them and they will walk with us.
Spirit – But for them to be like us we will need to give them the power to make their own decisions. And there is already one that we’ve thrown out who will be waiting to twist that so that they no longer listen to us, or obey us.
Father – No, and they will not stop there. They will completely give themselves to the Lie, and their foolishness will increase in every generation until it becomes a burden too great for even the worlds to bear, and the embroidery that we have so carefully made, will tear, and decay.
Spirit – They will turn away even from our love and our life. And they will spit on us. And they will mock what we say. And they will dive willingly into the terrible punishment that we’ve kept for the Liar, because they will love him and themselves more than us.
Son – They will murder each other, and they will do things that we cannot even imagine or think of, things that do not even pass through our minds. They will cause us endless pain, and destroy everything we have made. They will make us familiar with suffering and with tears.
Father – They will reject and kill everyone we send, and who listens to us, and even when we allow them to destroy themselves again and again, until the pain has no words to express itself any longer, and their rot is open to be seen from all worlds, and the millions of their dead lie rotting in the open fields, they will still turn away from us.
All three – But they are ours. We have already put our love into them in our plans for them. They are not meant for anyone else. And what we make no one can undo unless we will it. The Liar has no power over us.
Father – How will we save them then? Is there any other way except one?
Son and Spirit – No. It’s all up to us. You know it’s the only way for everything to be bought back so that something new can be made.
Father – But it’s a terrible way, and it must be done now, before we begin.
Son – I’m ready, and more than willing.
Father – You know your cradle will swing over a dreadful grave.
Son – I know. And we are agreed.
Spirit – You know, you will be tempted to give up. You will be mocked, tortured, humiliated, lied to, taken advantage of, despised, pushed around, rejected and betrayed, and over all that, you will need to be silent and allow it.
Father – You will need to carry on yourself what you hate and cannot endure. The unbearable weight of all fallenness and unholiness from the beginning to the end will fall on your shoulders alone, and you will be crushed for them and because of them.
Son – Yes, and we know too that by the pain of those wounds they will be healed, and many will come back to us. I am ready, and more than willing. I know that you both love them so much that you will send me and you know that I love them as much as you, and I will go.
Father – We are agreed then. So be it. Let the Lamb be killed.
And He was declared killed. Before all things were made. It was then that He was ready to be sent, and at just the right time, a baby was born who carried the blood of great King David’s line. Her name was Mary. But years before her, baby boys were born in lands far off who would grow up interested in the stars. Another baby boy had been born closer to where Mary was born, who would later agree to marry her, even with knowing that his life was going to become unbearably complicated because of her. And another whole bunch of babies had been born into poverty and hardship, but who would love their livestock enough to bear the cold and take their sheep out to get the first grass springing out of the winter ground now made soft by melting snows. And they would see something extraordinary.
But you all know THAT story.
The story of a Gift, given before creation, of the price of all this pain, paid for and atoned for. A Love so big that It bleeds over everything that exists. It bleeds over us, over all that we do; It soaks us in forgiveness, redeems everything we do, blesses us with lavishness beyond description, and tells us we are the apple of our Father’s eye.