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Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Write a Christmas story

Christmas Eve:  the soft caroling by the organist using the quiet registers, the candles, the stained glass window receiving light and shadow . . .  I was in the choir loft enjoying the quiet moment.  Then the old stories were told once more from the pulpit.  Never mind that things didn't really happen like that, with angels on the hillside, the stable, the long journey to Bethlehem.  Truth is more than facts.  Truth is deeper, more real, believable.

I can picture the storytellers in committee, fashioning those old old themes, the narratives, the main characters. They come up with several different versions, choose two of them, and begin to fill in the gaps.  A dream works well for this:  let the dream be to the father-to-be, told by the Divine, that his fiancee is with child.  So the two of them marry and the woman grows into her own fullness.  Well, let's add more to this.  Look up the prophecies.  Oh, the location is needed, to set the scene. So wait until she is great with child and add a donkey or two, and send them on the way to Bethlehem, that little town the man's ancestors claimed as theirs. It's a good idea to merge the plots about here.  We'll add that this is registration time so lodging was at a premium.  Where shall this couple go then?  How about the stable where the animals live?  It's warm in there and we can pile up more straw in the manger where the cows come to eat. It makes a soft bed for a newborn.

Good idea to muffle the sounds of childbirth.  Keep this a solemn moment.  After all, here is the offspring of the Divine, foretold by ancients to lead a life that takes him to death.  Well, at least temporarily.  What do we need now?   Why not focus on those shepherds, the lowly ones.  But how?  Ahhh, do you hear what I hear?  time to add angels to all this, and the bright light that nearly outshines that other light, the Star that brightens the heavens.  Yes, this will set a wonderful scene.  Awesome.   Give them songs to sing.  Give them promises to sing to the world.  Let them sing praises to the Divine, the Holy One, the Maker of All That Is.  What an introduction to the entering One, the Promised One, the One of Mystery.  Yes, mystery.  We need not explain any of this.

And then . . . let's add some foreigners to show this isn't just a local story.  Make them very wise.  Make them seekers of a prophesy.  Make them wise in the way of the lights in the skies.  Have them follow the brightest of lights, as they make their way.  Add conflict here, with a meeting before the mighty king who fears any more powerful than he.  And so these wise ones keep traveling.  They will find more than they sought.  Let them know the significance of this one who lies in the straw.  There must be a way to protect this child from the evil king.  Ah yes.  A dream, of course.  Send a dream to these wise ones to find another way home.  They are not to return to the city of the king.  Dangers there abound.  Have the king issue an edict to kill all boy children lest one should usurp his throne.  Don't dwell on that tragedy taking place in the city.  We must focus on what has come to this earth.  Let us make this a story of one who will some day, some day, meet the death dreamed of since his very birth.  But we must not let that be the end of the story.  Let us tell it as the truth that is present in all the story.  Let us show that death did not kill him.  We must finally see him as alive forever.   Yes.  That is how we must tell this.  Yes. And yes.

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