The story of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem told by people who live in Bethlehem now. Mansour a shepherd and Baseel a taxi driver. Ameen a street vendour and Aisha a midwife. Rana a peace activist and Zak an antiques dealer. Issa and Ali, refugees and the believers David and Baseel.
We have heard this story many times and our belief that we know it well is the thing that is about to stop us from hearing it at all.
We have made the story in our own image, taken it and shaped it into something suitable for our Christmas cards and advent calendars, a carol service vignette with snow and gentle animals to soothes our credit card worries and calm our over shopped minds. This is a drawing room saviour in a church car park stable scene. At some juncture in the story this saviour buys us just enough peace and love to make it through the holidays and maybe enough for a happy new year.
But hidden somewhere in the the labyrinth of romanticism and consumerism there lies a gritty human story of political intrigue, religious manoeuvrings, murder, mischief and danger. This story is not for children, or Christmas cards. It is not for anyone who would like things to stay just the way they are. Suffocating under layers of embellishment, additions and decorations there sweats a christmas story set in the towns and villages of real families: farmers, craftsmen, traders and their women. This is a fighting tale that struggles to break free from our tyrannical grasp and tell the truth about the way things are.
The story defies our ownership of it, however many time we take it and make it into an image of our own. It breaks free wherever its feet touch the ground. This story can not be held or confined or be made to beg. It does not ask us permission to speak. It does not need our help for it will find its own way into the hearts and minds of the people it is destined to reach. For this is how God chose to change the whole course of eternity as it sped in its tracks, hot out of Eden with the hosts of heaven in its wake. When God gave His redemptive story feet and legs to run, it raced out of glory faster than time itself and hit the ground running in a stable in Bethlehem.