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Tell the Story!

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I am fascinated by our ability, as people created in the image of God, to tell stories. Because of this I am convinced that our God is a storytelling God. The Gospel of John even tells us that from the beginning of time there was the Word. A story (John 1:1, NRSV). As parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents, we all know how important it is to start reading to our children even before they are old enough to understand the words. We buy books made out of heavy cardboard, cloth, and that funny spongy stuff for newborns. There are the books we read to our kids – over and over. We read poems and stories that rhyme, Twas the Night Before Christmas, Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss (does anyone read Mother Goose anymore?)

From the beginning. A Word. A story. A story repeated. Over and over. As people that follow Jesus, it is the stories of the Bible that we retell. We tell stories not only in written form, but in visual form as well. Look around. The story of the birth of Jesus is reflected in the nativity scene setup in the sanctuary, and in the presence of the children in our midst. We tell the epic story in movies. Songs. Paintings. What is music and art, but telling stories? And science…also tells stories of the world around us. What we do each day, what we say to one another in each conversation…tells a story.

You wouldn’t be here tonight if…in some way…large or small…you too were not drawn to be a part of the story. Whether you are visiting this evening, or a longtime member of this congregation; Whether you come to church regularly, or you come once in a while; Whether you are here with family, or if this gathering of people – strangers and friends – is your community for the evening – there is something…SOMETHING in the retelling of this messy story (or actually the 2 very different stories we have from Matthew and Luke – which of course makes the story even messier) something in the birth of this child, this Emmanuel, this God With Us, that brought you – HERE – tonight.

So let’s tell the story. From you, to me, to us, to beyond the walls of this church, the story lives. All around the globe, people are gathering in churches tonight and tomorrow to hear the story of the messy birth of a child – God With Us.

But will we see it happen this year? Will God be born? I sometimes wonder how many times God needs to be born in our midst for us to fully get the story. Around the world, this year has been packed with stories of violence and fear. When will it be that we will hear this story of Mary and Joseph and not just not hold it up as a miraculous story that happened long, long ago in a place far, far away?

For I believe that God is still telling God’s Story – through us. A few years ago I received a Christmas Card from my nephew who was nine year-old. I looked at the picture and instantly thought – that’s it! That’s the Christmas Eve message! We are a people of God’s story – whether or not we know it. We just don’t always see the story. But it’s there.

Sometimes angels show up and tell us the story, but we don’t get it. Yet the story is there. In our world today there are stories of angels and outcasts. In the 21st century, we hear the story of Jesus’ birth again and again. But too often we are like the artwork my nephew designed:

All around us holiday lights and neon lights flash. God says “look over here.” And we totally miss it. The person in the image is saying, “Sigh. Nothing exciting ever happens here.” She’s there, but she’s missing the God Stuff happening right in front of her.

Has God been born again today, and nobody is noticing? Are we noticing? Sure, we hear the story. Over. And over. Again.

But, have we been transformed?

Have we missed the signs?

How might we see Jesus born in the world today?

Here is another image, from Brian Andreas’ Storypeople series:

The caption says, “One time on Hollywood Boulevard, I saw a young girl with a baby. It was a crisp winter morning and her hair shone dark purple in the sun. She was panhandling outside the Holiday Inn and the door clerk came out and told her to be on her way and I wondered if anyone would recognize the Christ child if they happened to meet. I remember thinking it’s not like there are any published pictures and purple seemed like a good color for a Madonna so I gave her a dollar just in case.”

So my question for you this evening is: Where are you in God’s Story?

Yesterday in worship, some of you may have been surprised to find the crèche on the communion table empty. There wasn’t a Mary, or a Joseph, any shepherds, or magi. Instead, we used Holy Imagination to think about who we are in God’s story. Where do you, where do I, where do we together find ourselves in the Story today? Look around. The stories are here. Listen. And be transformed.

In my church background, I have worked extensively with cross-generational faith formation. Once, when I asked a 5 year-old, who she was in the Story, she drew an angel.

And before us this evening, the youth and adults have selected their own response to “who are you in the story?” {Note: the 5 pm worship service at Memorial UCC was a “no practice pageant,” where the youth and adults picked out their own costumes} Here we see Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherd, and magi before us.

And you? You are witnesses to the event! But… you also might be an angel. A shepherd. A Mary or a Joseph that has had a dream of Good News. A wandering magi, watching the cosmic signs around us and seeking that Holy Something, knowing… just fully knowing… you will find God With Us. As a magi, you may be bringing gifts to just the one who needs it most. Or, maybe you are a camel carrying burdens.

These are our stories. Our stories woven into God’s Story.

Where are you in the Story? God’s Story?

Today after worship I invite you to tell part of your story, our story together, through a photograph :

  • I invite you to stop by the prayer station in the gathering space just beyond these doors
  • There are signs that say, “God With Us… #TellTheStory” on the table
  • Hold the picture in front of yourself… or with your family… or a group of your friends… and take a picture
  • Then connect! We are going to use the pictures that you take HERE, as a visual way to tell our own story and celebrate the presence of God HERE… as we follow Jesus… and listen to the Spirit lead us in Holy Imagination in our own faith community
    • Text your picture to me: 608.438.6307
    • Or, if you are a social media type of person, you may “@” us at:
      • @MemorialUCC on FaceBook or
      • @MemUCC on Twitter
      • (and if you really want to tech challenge the pastor, you can post your photo on Instagram: memorialucc9972)
    • Use the hashtag #TellTheStory (and, if you are unfamiliar with hashtags, they are a way to connect and search for topics on social media… Hashtags help us find each other!)
    • Be creative!

Look around. Be transformed. God is been born in our midst – Tell the Story!