22 December, Advent Light XXII: A Great Story.

Jesus told stories. His disciples kept some of them alive, as we do to this day. They also told stories about him and his travels through Palestine, but, as John’s Gospel tells us (21.25) there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. Stories – or ‘Salvation’s Story’ – are the basis of Christian belief, not the writings of scholars. St Paul refers back to the message he had received even as he tries to put the meaning of it into words that satisfy the mind as well as the heart.

A 20th Century writer of theology and of stories puts it like this:

Story – or at least a great Story of the mythical type – gives us an experience of something not as an abstraction but as a concrete reality. We don’t ‘understand the meaning’ when we read a myth, we actually encounter the thing itself. Once we try to grasp it with the discursive reason, it fails.

CS Lewis, in Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings,  George Allen & Unwin, London, 1978, p143.

Or we could turn to a poet, one who dithered, kneeling at the threshold of belief in his ‘Christmas’, but stressing the tangible, not just tissued fripperies, but the Baby in an ox’s stall, and God alive in Bread and Wine. A concrete reality.

And is it true? And is it true,
    This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
    A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true? For if it is,
    No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
    The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
    No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
    Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

John Betjeman, Christmas.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

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