One of my favourite parts of the Bible is the first two chapters of Luke.
We know it especially for the birth story of Jesus, recording in the beginning of chapter 2 and recited every year at Christmas time. That little section, though wondrous in its own right, is not the whole story. The manger is the heart of the narrative, of course, but all the verses that surround it (152 in total), before and after, give us a full-fleshed picture of this miraculous event.
These two chapters are an awesome mash-up of Old and New Testament, filled with ancient Hebrew allusions, prophecies fulfilled, and foreshadowing of events to come. There is drama, mystery, adventure, danger, tragedy, and the impossible coming true. There is an amazing cast of colourful characters, both human and angelic. These chapters shimmer with heavenly messengers, announcing the Word of the Lord, and in resounding answer we hear the Spirit of God Himself in the voices of Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. These chapters positively crackle with a kind of electricity – like flint on a stone, the striking together of old an new, heaven and earth, promise and fulfillment, “Fear not,” and “Be it unto me.”
This story is a song, a harmonious round, with many layers of Old Testament echoes, and my cross-referencing Bible can’t keep up. I’m dizzy flipping the gilt-edged pages back and forth, revelling in the poetry, the imagery, the music.
This story shines like an expertly-cut diamond, with every angle bringing some new revelation of light and colour.
This story is a world I can live in for days. It is a feast for lectio divina – the practice of slow immersion in the details of the text. I let the words wash over me, sinking deeper, saturating my thoughts, infusing and transforming my prayers. There is room to swim here.
It is a living Word after all, and the Spirit is still speaking. God’s words do not shrivel and fade away with time. This is no bouquet of cut flowers, placed on the table for a festive centrepiece, only to be discarded with the old year. This is a living vine, with roots stretching back to the stump of Jesse, to the garden of Eden, and branches reaching to a glorious ripening hope. This is the perfect climbing tree, the kind that gives you a step up and then pulls you further up and further in, the kind that begs you to stay and build a fort.
I suppose all I’m saying with these crazy mixed metaphors is that even though Christmas Day is over, the story goes on, both before and ahead. Don’t put away the beginning of Luke yet!
A light, a song, a diamond, a sea, the perfect climbing tree. Flung, sung, crafted, filled and sprouted by the Living Word Himself.
S. D. G.