Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to the Story for the First Time...

This time of year, many of us are prone to turn back to the beginning of the Gospels and read the Nativity narratives. Sunday messages are typically centered around this timeless story. This is true for me, as well as what we've been doing at SouthGate. Yet, I'm always leery of these seasons. I fear that we, especially in the West, often become immune to the power of these stories, especially after hearing them so many times. We read them, we hear them, but sometimes we can do so without listening to them. Really listening, as if it were the first time.

"I read a fascinating study a few years ago," writes Mark Batterson in Wild Goose Chase, "that suggested people stop thinking about the lyrics of a song after singing it thirty times. I"m sure the numbers vary from person to person but the tendency is universal. And it has profound implications when it comes to worship."

I think a similar case could be for the well-worn passages of Scripture.

Several weeks ago, I began re-reading through the Nativity narratives, perusing, thinking, reflecting, meditating and waiting. As I've done so, there's been a prayer that I pray often: "God, don't let me grow numb to this story... Keep me from assuming I know the story... Help me to see something new... Help me to read it again for the first time..."

God loves to answer this prayer!

God loves to open up new angles to His Word!

Several things have struck me in
new ways this season.

Last week, as I was reading through the narrative something caught my attention. Particular words to be exact. Words that described how people were feeling, responding and resonating to the events at hand. Words like:
"amazed, amazement, astonished, marvel, marveled, surprised, wonder, wondered" At every turn of the story, it is as if Luke, the narrator, pushes the pause button, freezes the act and steps out from backstage and inserts these emphatic snapshot-addendums to what was going on within the characters on stage.

These words caught my attention and a question curiosity began emerge within. I wonder if these words are all the same Greek word? What if Luke is echoing this same word again and again throughout this narrative. I began to explore the Greek texts of this passage and discovered that every time Luke uses the same Greek word -
thaumazo. (Luke uses this word thirteen times throughout his Gospel. Four of these times he uses this word in the first two chapters of the nativity narrative.)

This struck me as significant, especially in the context my prayer this season. It's as if Luke is inserting these narrative jolts into the storyline. He wants to get our attention! He wants us to slow down and enter into the wonderment again. He wants us to read this story, feel the awe and never become numb...

May we experience thaumazo for ourselves - again - for the firs time.

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