I am posting an article today from Jennifer Woodley of Australia. Jennifer and I are members of FaithWriters.com and when I read this article of hers, I immediately contacted her and asked for permission to post it for my readers. She graciously agreed. What follows is her article titled:
by Jennifer Woodley
There are two narratives that are told and retold about this time of the year. They seem to me both as absurd as each other. Sooner or later though, they require a response. Which one, given that they are both unbelievable, will we lay claim to as being the truth?
Firstly, there is the story about a young, Israelite teenage girl, Mary, who is betrothed to marry a boy named Joseph. Yet just before the wedding, Mary declares she is pregnant, and Joseph is not the biological father. Instead, an angel has visited Mary, or so she says, announcing that she has been appointed by God to carry his son, Jesus. Jesus, the angel says, will be the savior of all people, from every nation, for all times. Amazingly, after this divine visitation, Mary conceives. This is the first Divine Conception and probably the last.
The following events are no more believable. Mary, a quiet, obedient girl, is shunned by most of her family and friends as a harlot and a liar. Only Joseph, because of an angelic visitation in a dream, accepts Mary’s story, and he flees with his fiancée to escape further embarrassment and harassment. Jesus, the savior-to-be, is born in a rough cattle trough, in a desolate shepherd’s cave, is visited by worshiping shepherds; announced by a sky full of singing angels; hailed a king by traveling Magi bearing precious gifts and worshiped by those who had been waiting hopefully, longingly for the baby’s birth. This is the Christian Christmas story – the celebration of Christ the Messiah, sent by God to show his love for humankind whose misguided ways have them looking for more.
Then there is the story of the jolly, fat man, named Santa. He is donned in a bright, red suit trimmed neatly with white fur, who resides at the North Pole. He apparently watches out from his home in the far north, for all children who are naughty and for those who are nice, and rewards according to their behavior. Santa has a team of hard-working elves who help him all year, making toys, preparing presents to satisfy the lists of those who are good. (Santa must change his mind at the last moment on which boys and girls do get presents, because it seems to me that even the naughty ones get something).
Then on Christmas Eve Santa, who has to be omnipresent, rides away from the North Pole on his beautiful sleigh directed by reindeers (who have an amazing internal GPS). Santa is on a mission to answer the cries of every boy and girl, worldwide, or at least in the commercial west. Though he is fat, he slips down chimneys to fill stockings and pillow cases and has just enough time to swish back a hot toddy or two. Then, racing back up the chimney, Santa is off to the next home. Wow! What a big night for Santa, bet he is glad it only happens once a year. This is the second Christmas story – the celebration of Santa and the promise of what gifts he will bring to people whose eager eyes have an endless appetite for more.
Which of these two narratives is worth proclaiming, worth investing our time and effort into this Christmas? Which story, as unbelievable as it may seem, offers a lasting hope? Is Christmas about the One who offers the gift in the moment, a gift that is longed for, but will be unwrapped and forgotten before it breaks, expires or is lost? Or is Christmas about the One who offers the gift that lasts into eternity and satisfies a deeper internal longing. Is Christmas about the One who makes a gift available to those who are good and nice or the One who offers a gift for the wretched, the outcast, the lonely, the poor or even the perpetrator?
This Christmas we have two absurd stories to choose from. One is about filling ourselves with more and more, the other is about emptying ourselves for others. I know which story I have chosen. How about you?
If you were blessed by this article as I was, you can find more writings of Ms. Woodley by going to her website: http://www.jenniferwoodley.com