I laughed out loud a few weeks ago when my friend Dan recounted the first time he read the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. When his wife asked him to read the “Christmas Story,” as she referred to it, Dan was shocked to see a Bible placed in his lap. He’d assumed she’d meant ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
I’m with Dan – this will be the first time in my 40 years that I have read the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day…or even leading up to Christmas Day (aside from in a church service, of course).
Nearly every evening at suppertime this month we’ve read a few lines about the birth of Jesus in Luke or Matthew. It’s been a revelation for me to realize just how little I know about the details of that story. Just this week, for instance, I was surprised to read that Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus escaped to Egypt for two years to avoid King Herod, who vowed to kill baby Jesus.
I know I’ve read that detail before, but the magnitude of it never stuck with me – that just days after birthing her first child, Mary had to travel nearly 200 miles to a foreign land. Can you imagine bumping along on the back of a donkey just days after giving birth? Can you imagine raising your newborn in a foreign country where you didn’t know a soul? Can you imagine the fear, the terror of having to dash from Bethlehem in the middle of the night because a crazed king was bent on murdering your child?
It all makes my move to Nebraska just weeks before giving birth to my first child look like a walk in the park.
That’s the beauty of reading the Bible just a few lines at a time – you can soak in the details of the story.
Often when I do my morning Bible study, I feel compelled to rush through the text, to squeeze in as much reading as my limited time will allow. It seems I simply want to “get through” the Bible in order to check it off my daily to-do list.
But because we are following an Advent devotional book, our evening readings are much more concise. We read just a handful of lines, maybe a verse or two, and then ask questions and talk about the scene for a few minutes. I’m not exactly sure what this approach is having on my kids, but for me, at least, it’s allowed me to think about and remember the details of this age-old story.
I’m eager to read the “Christmas Story” in Luke on December 25 this year. After piecing the narrative together line by line this last month, I wonder how the story will read as a whole. I wonder how the kids will react to it.
I’m keeping my expectations low – after all, these are the kids who talked about dead racoons as part of our Advent devotions last week. But I do hope that we can breathe the true Christmas Story into our celebration on December 25 and be amazed, even if only for a moment or two, that he came to be with us.
Do you read the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day? Is this part of your family tradition?
This is the fourth and final post in the A Different Advent series. Click here to read past posts.