Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

What a story! What superb story telling! No wonder it has lasted nearly 2000 years and still haunts and inspires the imagination of millions. I am thinking of course of the opening chapters of St. Matthews and St. Luke’s gospels: the story of the nativity of Jesus of Nazareth. How does a story like that come to be written? I think many of us have clues to the answer in our own experience. Something profound happens to us, some flash of inspiration, triggered by a chance meeting, a conversation, or a book, or just out of the blue as we see a familiar sight with fresh eyes. Suddenly something clicks into place for us. “So that’s what he meant!” we think, “now I see, now I understand what she meant!” It happened to me five years ago when, in early December, I read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ and it was as if a string had been tugged to which were attached memories of books I had read, poems I remembered, unresolved problems I had laid aside as too difficult to solve, all came to the surface so that I thought, “So that’s what it was all about! Why didn’t I see it before?
Now imagine the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Their minds are stocked with memories of the only literature anyone knew in the Israel of those days: the books of what we now call the Old Testament; nothing else except the scriptures heard every Sabbath. Suddenly, in the light of the encounter with Jesus, life is transformed. “Aha! That’s what it’s all about! All those prophecies and other writings that I have heard and pondered all these years. Now I understand!” Later, perhaps 30 or 40 years later, two people sit down to write gospels and out of that original ‘aha!” experience comes the exquisite narrative that we now know as the Christmas story. Of course we would not, could not, write such a story today. We no longer believe in stars that hover over one place, or magi, or the possibility of virgin birth; nor are our minds saturated with the imagery of one piece of literature to provide us with a rich source of inspiration. What is possible for us a fresh ‘aha!” encounter which opens up a ‘now I understand’ insight.
The writer and spiritual guide Simon Parke says, "It is sad that we have forgotten the true meaninglessness of Christmas. Meaning is about control; Christmas about indefinable delight.' I prefer the secret sort; the secret Christmas which comes to find me quietly and in a manner quite unexpected. I think it might and I wish this experience for you."