Above and beyond all the warm and winsome myths of Christmas is the divine story of redemption, a Word that became flesh and dwelt among us for an eternal purpose.
I was raised on stories. Aside from daily infusions of other essential nutrients like green beans and potatoes and homemade bread, tales of miracles and missionary adventures found fertile soil in my young imagination.
Morning classes in grade school gave way to lunch time and recess. The incentive to plop our sweaty selves back indoors was more than a shrill whistle from the teacher. It was story time with books from the Little House on the Prairie series, Adventist tomes like Tales from the Haunted Pagoda or Singer on the Sand.
Effective stories trigger our imaginations and without complexity give pure minds room to roam. Simple phrases like “Jimmy was an unusually well-behaved lad, but then one day …” or “Sarah crept to the edge of the window and silently peeked in …” are full of mystery and wonder, just like life.
The best efforts in media today deal honestly with issues that challenge the human spirit to think beyond status quo. The most compelling stories help us understand how others have navigated the unknown. Their willingness to try, sometimes fail but keep on going gives us added courage to step into our own abyss.
Story is important, says author John Eldredge, because “life doesn’t come to us like a math problem. It comes to us the way that a story does, scene by scene. You wake up. What will happen next? You don’t get to know — you have to enter in, take the journey as it comes.”
Scripture provides a clear beginning and ultimate end to this stage we call the Great Controversy. But it’s the area in between — what C.S. Lewis called the “shadowlands” — where our personal uncertainties linger, where faith is tested and tried. Some of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty. We do all in our power to plan ahead, to create reasonable expectations for what tomorrow may bring. But we quickly disconnect the gospel message from real life when we approach it like a math or science class. We expend enormous efforts at finding the empirical evidence and key texts, constructing watertight formulas, selecting the right answers and policies. Yet in doing so, we to often turn our backs to faith in God's creative Spirit and lose sight of the greatest story ever told.
It’s the story woven again and again by the Master Teacher. Scripture says “Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them” (Matt. 13:34). “A sower went out to sow … ,” “a certain man had two sons … ,” “a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves …” — all tapped responsive chords in listeners. They were drawn from familiar experiences but connected by divine warp and woof to the core values of the kingdom. Each listener had the imagination awakened to consider his or her own place in His story.
When heaven came down, when the Word became flesh, humanity came face to face with the story of redemption. Where do you see yourself in His story? Where does it fit in your daily “to do” list? How many of His words have been written on your heart? How willing are you to step out with Him on a journey of faith into the unknown? How ready are you to exchange a formula-driven existence for a Spirit-guided ride beyond your wildest imagination?