Monsters, Myths, and Mangers
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the LORD had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
Dr. Bob Rynes is a professor at MIT. As a physicist he has written many books, including one on sonar that helped others find the Titanic. For the past 30 years, however, he has had another interest – finding the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Since the year 565 C.E., people have reported seeing a prehistoric monster living in the land-locked lake. Dr. Rynes is attempting to discover whether “Nessie” (as the monster is affectionately called by the townspeople) exists. Though he did not believe the monster existed, now – because of sightings by sonar, he is not so sure. When asked why he looks, the professor said: “I search to remind myself we do not know everything; there is still mystery in life. I am out here because sometimes too much knowledge prevents us from even looking. A remnant of the past could be in the present; but we will never know if we do not look.”
The professor knows it is unlikely Nessie lives. Yet, he spends a few days each year at Loch Ness to remind himself that the Loch Ness Monster may be a myth, but it is a myth with a truth in it - that “we do not know everything” and that sometimes “too much knowledge prevents us from even looking.”
You may think a professor spending his summer looking for Nessie is silly. Yet, would it be silly if someone spent their summer studying Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland,” or Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” or Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” or Walker’s “The Color Purple?” After all, Shakespeare’s Hamlet does not exist, nor does Alice or Gulliver or so many characters in literature. Yet, the value in searching is to discover the truth about life and ourselves we find in them.
Each Christmas you and I read powerful and engaging stories about the birth of Jesus. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Sunday, we read the birth stories. We know the stories are not historical biographies, but testimonials. They are not clips from the evening news; for the stories in Matthew and Luke are completely different from one another. Yet, we still read them. They have some powerful truths to tell us.
For, you see, these stories of the birth of Jesus are really stories about us. That is why we keep returning to them year after year. If we lost these stories, then we would lose some truth about ourselves, our place in the world, and to whom we belong.
We learn the truth, for instance, that like Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem, we too are on a journey. Like them, our journey is full of hardships and bad timing; but one which has, like them, some ultimate meaning however hidden it might be.
Like Mary, visited by an angel and told she is pregnant, and like Joseph, told in a dream Mary was to have a baby, we are surprised at the unexpected and sudden turn of events in life. We are not sure we can cope with what will happen next. Yet, like them, we hope that God is working mysteriously in the events of our lives, working out healing and redemption for us and for others.
Like them, who faced the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod, we too know the power of violence that suddenly and unexpectedly swoops down among us and takes loved ones away.
Yet, like them, we believe we are not alone. We believe someone cares for us; someone is guiding our way; someone is lighting the spark of hope for us. Like them, we trust this One born among us, this little One called Jesus, is the answer to our dreams. He will find a way when there is no way.
That is why we can never let go of these stories of the birth in Bethlehem. No matter how mature we seem, no matter how much knowledge we gain, no matter how technologically advanced we become, like the professor from MIT, we too must face the truth that “we do not know everything.” Mystery surrounds our lives. Yet, in this mystery are truths we need to remember and cling to.
The stories we hear this Christmas – stories of angels singing, dreamers dreaming, shepherds walking, kings journeying, and stars shining – these stories may not be as historical as the evening news - but they contain truth nonetheless; truth that is greater than fact. The truth we need to hear – that we are not alone. We are not orphans in this vast and infinite cosmos. Our lives are not the result of chance or whim. They have meaning and purpose. Ultimately, these stories give us hope that even though we do not know everything, the remnants of the past, still remain in the present, and will guide us in the future, like a baby born in Bethlehem. Amen!
(Copyright by Jack Hughes Robinson. Use by Permission Only.)