One of my family's favourite books is called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", which was written by Barbara Robinson. It tells the story of a church in a small town, and its annual Sunday School Christmas pageant, which is hijacked by the "Herdmans", a sibling gang of the "worst kids" in the world. Because none of the Herdman kids have ever been to Sunday School, or church, in their lives, they need to hear the whole nativity story. Through their questions, the reader has the opportunity to hear the story again, as if hearing it for the first time.
Tonight I was at my wife's church, St. Paul's United Church in Oakville, for a public reading of this wonderful book. Each of the chapters was presented by a different reader. Each reader brought something of themselves into their dramatic reading. My sense of this was heightened because I know some of the readers, including our daughter Naomi, who presented the first chapter.
Some stories, like the one about the birth of Jesus, are worth hearing again, as if for the first time.
During the weeks of Advent I have been meeting on Wednesdays at lunch hour with a group to practice the ancient prayer discipline called "Lectio Divina", which is a contemplative approach to reading and praying scripture.
This Wednesday we will have our final meeting of the "Munching on the Word" group. We will spend time with this passage from Isaiah, which has often been read in churches on Christmas Eve. Here it is as found in "The Message", which is a contemporary paraphrase of scripture, which can be helpful for those seeking a fresh hearing of the words.
" The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He'll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this. "