When I was a kid, grandmothers were very important because they told stories. No, they did not read them, they told them in their own words, often complete with actions. And we kids would sit at her feet in wonder as she told stories of the family back in the “Old Country” (England). We had no TV in those days and so our grandmothers were often our best source of entertainment.
My wife, Carmel is a grandmother now and has inherited her great-grandmother’s story-telling ability so our grandchildren are being taught their family history. Carmel is a natural born teacher and can keep thirty kids entertained for hours with her exciting story telling. I am at a loss after a mere 10 minutes, and the boys let me know that my story about exciting differential calculus is really boring stuff!
Story-telling has been an integral part of culture from the very beginning. The Jews were masters of story-telling and passed on the stories of their history from generation to generation. Children were taught to listen, learn and retell the stories from an early age. Even today many Jewish families carry on the same tradition. I was privileged once to see this in action when I saw a group of Jews opening Sabbath in a hotel while we were travelling. The children were invited to tell the stories and the adults in the family listened with rapt attention, cheering loudly when the story was right and gently prompting where the story was forgotten. I can still remember the glisten of happy children’s eyes in the candle-light of the opening Sabbath meal.
So much is passed on between the generations by story-telling. It is not just the history, but values, faith and perspective. It is somewhat sad that we are losing the art, or worse, letting others tell stories instead of ourselves on TV and internet media. It is time to claim back the art of story telling.
We have a story to tell. It is about Jesus being born to a humble working couple in Bethlehem. It is a story full of surprises and contrasts, sadness and triumph. The young woman told by an angel that she was pregnant and that God was the father; the couple who had their motel bookings messed up and who had to have their baby in a cowshed; the miraculous birth – God as a baby; the shepherds in the paddocks calmly looking after their sheep, surprised by angel messengers and choirs announcing the birth of Jesus; the academic, calculating scientists and mathematicians who found Jesus, helped by their astronomy; the deviousness of Herod and his determination to kill the new-born king; and the triumph of God’s leading and protection.
This is our story, our heritage, our history, a pivot point of our faith, and a basis for our values. We must pass this story on to our children not just as something we believe, or dry doctrine, but as an ongoing story that includes us . We need to encourage them to tell the story and make it their own. We need to see their eyes glisten with excitement as the light of the story illuminates them. Bring back story-telling to your family life and your community and ensure that our story lives in our lives from generation to generation.
The Bible indicates how important this is even back in the time of the Exodus:
Deut: 11: 19-21 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
And if perchance some of you think that it is time to mention paganism, and the papacy and the worship of consumerism, the unholy use of Christmas carols, the wrong time of the year and so on; forget it. The story is about Jesus. Ring the bells, sound the trumpets, beat the drums and conduct the choirs. Jesus was born 2000 years ago and he still lives in us today. This is our story and it is worth telling.
[Moderators Note: Your comments on ways to share the story of Jesus birth meaningfully will be greatly appreciated. However, in view of the theme of this post, comments on the pagan origins of Christmas will be considered off-topic and won’t be published.]