I can watch Harry Potter, The Office, Little Women, or Elf over and over again and never tire of their tales. I can sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 1000 times from Thanksgiving to Christmas day and it never gets old. I know all the standard fairytales - Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast - they've been burned into my mind since age 4 or 5 and I'm pretty sure they'll still be there 50 years from now. But the story of Jesus' birth? Heard it, seen it, played Mary in church pageant.
I was sitting through about the 20th Christmas Eve Candlelight service of my life on Tuesday night and found myself thinking, 'this is so redundant. Why do we have to do this every year? Sure, the music is pretty, the sanctuary looks magical with the tree and candles; I'm surrounded by family and friends...but we all know this story, right? Why do we need to be reminded every year?' I know, I know, those thoughts deserve a little criticism. I happily gave myself that criticism while sitting in church that night.
I asked God to make something of the centuries old story new to me that night. I wanted some new application; some cool story I'd be able to share and impress my family and friends with.
I read back through the story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is the simplest story. Mary and Joseph were married but had not had sex. Mary was pregnant though. An angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid and to call the baby Jesus. Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census - because Joseph was from David's lineage, he had to travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. Because everyone was traveling, there were no rooms left in the inns. Well, that baby was coming, so they needed some kind of shelter. Enter a barn, a stable, a trough, and farm animals. Shepherds, angels, Magi all traveled to see this boy wonder. They brought gifts, they sang praises to the Lord...you know the rest.
I'll be honest, I was dissppointed, after reading through the story several times, to have found no new nugget of spiritual application. Just as I suspected, it was the same ole' story, with the same ole' characters.
Oh but wait! Ok, so these writers are telling me that God - yes, THE GOD who created this world - came to earth in human form, was born where animals eat hay and slop, had normal parents, grew up a carpenter, began a ministry, performed miracles, died on a cross so that I don't have to spend eternity in hell, and inspired his followers to begin the church.
Wow, Peyton. Nothing new about that story. But everything divine and holy and sacred and inspiring, and yes, simple about that story. In the coming year, I am going to live in the simplicity of my faith, the divinity of the baby savior, the holiness of the holy spirit living in me, and the sacrifice of THE GOD who, so high and mighty, made himself so low and humble to save me, the gal who selfishly sits in church on Christmas Eve demanding some new nugget of spiritual inspiration. Ugh. I'm so vain.