Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Safe Stories

At the beginning of the film, the Never Ending Story, a young boy named Bastian finds himself in an old bookstore, inquiring of the bookstore owner about a special book that he has noticed. “What’s that book about?” asks Bastian.
“Oh this is something special,” says the bookstore owner. “Well, what is it?”
“Look your books are safe,” the owner says, “By reading them you get to become Tarzan, or Robinson Crusoe.”
“But that’s what I like about them,” says Bastian.
“Ah, but afterwards you get to be a little boy again.”
“What do you mean?” asks Bastian. “Listen,” says the man.
“Have you ever been Captain Nemo, trapped inside your submarine while the giant squid is attacking you?”
“Yes,” says Bastian.
“Weren’t you afraid you couldn’t escape?”
“But it’s only a story!”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” says the man. “The ones you read are safe.”

I've treated the Christmas story in years past like a book in a used bookstore. Each year, I have read it, reenacted it, preached it, and imagined it. And I have put it safely back on the shelf and become the person that I always was. But for the story to have any meaning, I must, like young Bastion discovered in the movie, enter the story and become part of it.

Matthew invites us to do just that. He mentions three groups of 14 generations in Matthew chapter 1. The first group is from Abraham to David, the second from David to the exile, and the third from the exile to Jesus. The only problem numerically is that there are only 13 generations listed in chapter 1 of Matthew from the exile to Jesus.

Some scholars suggest, however, that the 14th generation is the church--from the 1st century forward who completes the story. They listen, imagine, and then enter the story, from the moment of Immanuel-- "God with us" until the times is fulfilled while Jesus "is with us always until the end of the age."

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