I believe that storytelling is a lost art in our society today . . . that we do not have enough stories or storytellers. But stories are important and necessary for life and faith. Author Philip Pullman writes:
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Think about it . . . as a people of faith . . . especially those of us who base our faith on Jesus Christ . . . those of u who call ourselves the followers of Jesus . . . it is through stories that we build the foundation of our faith. It is stories that inform us, guide us, and make us stronger . . . without stories would any of us be here this evening? Stories are important and as a people of faith, we must continue to tell the stories, for if we don’t the stories will die, we won’t remember who we are, or why we are even here. As author Sue Monk Kidd writes:
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.”
So we are a people of story . . . a never ending story . . . a story we can never stop telling and sharing. The church has divided the calendar up into a liturgical year. The first season of the church year is always the season of Advent . . . the season of anticipation in which the story begins . . . the prophecy and expectation of a Savior being gifted into the world from God. The four weeks of Advent build upon anticipation . . . all pointing to the Savior to come with all the promise of a new world . . . a new kingdom . . . of a new life in the presence of God. It is anticipation and expectation all rolled up into one great big build-up to . . . well, to this evening. It is the prelude to the “greatest story ever told” . . . the Christmas story.
Author Nicholas Sparks writes:
“Every great love starts with a great story...”
And, so it is with the story we heard this earlier this evening from the writers of the scriptures of our Bible. This is the story of God’s deep love for all of us . . . past, present, and yet to be, and it begins with the birth of a child. Children are a symbol of hope . . . hope for a new beginning . . . a fresh start . . . hope for what can be . . . something that is beyond what we have now. In the birth of a child the slate is clean and the future looks bright . . . and, the story begins . . . the story does not end with the birth, but only begins at this point for us . . . and, we must always remember this.
The reality is that this is not the beginning of the story of God’s love for God’s creation . . . of God’s love for us . . . it is just a stopping point along the way that has grabbed our attention . . . that has made us stop . . . made us wonder . . . but it is not the start of the story, nor is it the end. Writer Graham Greene explains that it is a point . . . he writes:
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”
Our story this evening began by looking back to the past . . . to hear the story as it was born of a people searching for freedom . . . searching for relationship with God . . . searching for that kingdom promised by God. We heard the prophecies they heard . . . we heard the prophecies fulfilled . . . and, we gathered around the manger with those who first encountered the Christ Child in that little town of Bethlehem. Despite how wonderful this moment is . . . how much it touches our hearts . . . we know that the story does not end here. Way, way off in the distance we can see a cross . . . a cross that will bring the story to a frenzied climax and seemingly shatter everything once and for all. But, we do not want to ruin this moment . . . we do not want to look towards the future . . . and, yet, the story must be told.
Remember, especially those of us who belong to this body of faith—the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—a people of the bread and the cup . . . the story does not end in the manger. This service is of light and communion . . . light signifying the breaking through the darkness to reveal God’s love and grace for us . . . the communion symbolizing how deep and strong and powerful that love and grace is . . . God willing to sacrifice the Son for us. As the followers of Jesus we are called to remember . . . to remember the broken body . . . to remember the spilt blood . . . to remember the sacrifice, the death . . . and, the new life that is promised. The story continues from the manger to the cross . . . and, beyond. There is still more . . . more to come.
Remember, this is the never ending story of God’s love. It is not meant to stop at the manger . . . it is not meant to stop at the cross . . . it is a never ending story that must be told over and over again to remind us who we are . . . we are the children of God . . . to give us hope for what we are still striving and working towards—God’s Kingdom. This is the story of a great love and only we—as individuals and as followers of Jesus—can write the end; but, in the meantime, we have to tell the story.
Writer Catherynne Valente writes:
“Stories...are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end, only that you bend a knee and say the words.”
Bask in the moment, relish the gift, and then go forth and share the good news: God is with us! Amen.