Posted by: smstrouse | December 8, 2012

Christmas Blues, continued

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I don’t know how many preachers’ kids would care about the historicity of the infancy narratives in the synoptic gospels.  But I do believe that there are a lot of people sitting in the pews of our churches who’d like a better accounting of the traditional Christmas story.  Book such as The Dishonest Church have been accusing us for years now of lack of respect for these folks, due mainly to our fear of offending those for whom a literal interpretation of the story is a litmus test of faith.  Trouble is the cat is out of the bag; there are too many sources out there for independent study and spiritual journeying.  Books such as The First Christmas by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, blogs such as The Adventurous Lectionary by Bruce Epperly, web sites such as ProgressiveChristianity.org have opened the door for lively, intelligent – and faithful exploration of our sacred stories.

But as much as I enjoy reading all these wonderful authors and appreciate their scholarship, I know how important it is to have a community where it’s not only acceptable to ask questions, it’s expected. And it makes me very sad to know that not everyone has access to such community.  Because this isn’t just about an intellectual pursuit; it’s about one’s deepest connection to the Divine and to oneself and others. It ultimately can’t be done in isolation.

Having said that, though, thank God for books, blogs and web sites.  And for the means to reach out to like-minded seekers around the world for conversation and support.  If that’s your community for now, go for it.  But also keep your eyes and ears open in your own location as well. I used to think that I was the only one who just didn’t get the Christmas story, and that my only choices were to bite my tongue or stay away.  How shocked I was to find, when I made my ‘confession’ to a group of pastors, that they all knew full well “the historicity of the infancy narratives in the synoptic gospels” but still preached the story like it was historical fact.

So the challenge is not only for church members and seekers to find community, it’s also for preachers to get real.  Let’s face it, people don’t check their brains at the door to the church.  And there are ways to be sensitive to differing levels of  spiritual maturity and even disagreements over matters of interpretation.  Then we can be The Honest Church and what a celebration Christmas will be.  Just as a Native American storyteller would begin a tale, “Now I don’t know if it happened this way, but I know that it’s true,” so we can tell the ancient story of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, magi, star and all the rest as the true story of the incarnation of Divine Love.  And that’s the truth!

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  1. […] (originally posted on December 8, 2012) […]

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