Theologian Serene Jones often speaks of her congregation's celebration of the Christmas story.
Each year, as someone narrates, different members of the congregation act out the various parts.
Serene tells how transforming this can be, both for those given roles and for those witnessing the re-telling.
She tells of the year Pam, struggling with mental illness and low self-confidence, was invited to play an angel.
At first Pam wasn't sure, but with the encouragement of others she agreed.
On the night of the performance, Pam joined with other angels singing
Joy to the World. Her face shone with joy. She turned to another angel; the life of struggle normally seen in her face momentarily banished. 'I never knew I could be an angel,' she said.
That same year Reggie, a homeless member of the congregation, played the innkeeper.
When Mary and Joseph approach his inn seeking accommodation, instead of the expected 'No room at the inn', Reggie said, 'of course, come in.' Confused, they try again and the same answer is forthcoming – 'come in'.
Reggie knows how much it means to be welcomed. The homeless man cannot turn away another human being, and something new in the story is glimpsed.
We are reminded again of God coming amongst us as a fragile, precious baby. The Christmas story is to be entered into with our whole body and mind. It is to be lived as Pam and Reggie live it, allowing it to transform us.
Imagine you are the shepherd, minding your own business, watching your sheep. You are considered an outsider in society, ritually unclean because of your job.
You aren't expecting anything exciting to happen when suddenly angels appear in the night sky. 'Don't be afraid' they say, because you are – you are terrified.
Fear mixes with wonder. What's happening? Why is this happening to you? 'Don't be afraid, God has come to you, bringing peace, salvation, joy. Go and see, don't be afraid.'
Can you join with the shepherds and seek Jesus even when you are afraid or lonely?
Mary and Joseph welcome the baby Jesus into their life, their family, even though his birth courts scandal. They care for him, keep him safe, nurture him.
Their story invites us to carry Jesus in our lives, to be open to nurturing the life of Christ in our homes, our workplaces, our daily living. Like Mary, we too can bear Christ, bear witness to Christ in our daily life.
To live the story of Christmas with our whole body and mind is to do more than look on as others re-tell the story. We are invited to live the story as our own.
To find self-worth in being chosen by God for joy.
To find our home with God because Jesus lives in our home.
To overcome our fear and live as one who seeks and serves the way of Jesus. To open our hearts to welcome Jesus and bear witness to his goodness.
This Christmas season I invite you to do more than observe the story. I invite you to enter into it, to encounter Christ and allow that encounter to change you.
I wish you a happy joyful Christmas season.