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The stories of Christmas

In the Hellenistic world into which Jesus was born, stories tended to be about the gods and their escapades; or about mythical heroes in epic poems like the Odyssey or Iliad; or about great kings and their conquests.

Stories were not about common people – like an anonymous young couple on their way to register for a census.

A census: what could be more nameless than a census?

They were not on their way to compete in American Idol, which would have at least given them 15 minutes of fame. They were going to register for a census, just so their anonymous lives could be assigned an anonymous number.

It’s just that, along the way, something happened: Jesus came into the world through them, and so we know this couple as Mary and Joseph. And boy did they have a story to tell.

But when all of it was unfolding in real time, Mary and Joseph had no idea they were Mary and Joseph.

This year I am struck by the supporting cast of the Christmas story: the Marys and the Josephs, the shepherds and innkeepers, the Simeons and Annas.

Basically, they were all nobodies until a certain baby was born in a manger.

My point is this: when Jesus Christ comes into the world, anonymous lives are all transformed into living stories. The wonder of the Christmas story is that it made possible many, many stories.

No Christmas: no story at all; just anonymity. With Christmas: many, many stories.

After we hear these stories, we think the characters in them are special people: the Marys and the Josephs, the Simeons and the Annas. Special people.

But on the ground, in real time, as their lives were playing out, they were anonymous nobodies.

Just like us.

It's just that, once Jesus came into the world, their lives became meaningful stories, all magnetized to His-story.


Luke chapter 2


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