We’ve got two girls and have spent more hours in soft plays than I wish to admit. I have never warmed to these places and am grateful that adults aren’t allowed to play and join in. Apart from the inevitable, MUMMMMMM I’M STUCK. At which point I put down my coffee and book and put on some socks. I squeeze and crawl and do many other undignified things and rescue my child from being trapped.
Imagine if there was someone who could enter our world, hear our hearts cry for help and come and rescue us.
This is the message of the incarnation.
Alistair McGrath says “The idea of the incarnation means God taking on flesh, humbling himself to enter into human history and take on by himself the entire experience of existence as a human being”.
But how do we communicate this with our friends and our wider community so that they hear the good news of the Christmas story afresh?
Sam Chan writes in his book that our western post Christian culture story line is one where Jesus equals a loss of freedom. He continues… “We once believed in God, fairies and unicorns. But as we became more and more enlightened, we became rational and stopped believing in the supernatural. If we can leave behind our past superstitious beliefs and realise, we are only physical atoms and molecules then we can be free to be who we really are. The only thing that is holding us back are those who still haven’t gotten with the programme. That is religious people who still believe in God and who continue to oppress us with their outdated traditions, beliefs and morals. But we can courageously be true to ourselves we can discover the authentic selves within and we can discover and pursue our full potential, chase our dreams and refuse to let anyone tell us who to be“.
How do we communicate the message of the incarnation into our post Christian context? A context where Jesus equals a loss of freedom.
The nature and form of the incarnation has challenged me in my approach to telling the Christmas story in the last few years. At its very heart the incarnation shows us that Jesus offers access to God, both by making God known and making God available.
At Christmas time we have such an opportunity to make God known and make God available both to our friends and wider community.
There are 18,000 who live in our area. Many invites will go out for carol services. But there are many more for whom the impact of the Christmas story will simply pass them by. I’ve been thinking about how we can take this story out to others. How through Jesus we can offer access to God, make God known and make God available.
Three ways to share the incarnation story
1. Sing the story
Carol singing is still popular amongst many. Whether that’s on the radio, at a Carol service or at the switching on of Christmas lights. The lyrics and music of many carol songs communicate the message of Christmas. This is my take on carolling this year…
Kingfisher Swimmers Festive swim and sing
I love swimming, I swam competitively as a child and have adored it since. Yet as an adult I’ve not found friends to swim with. When lockdown hit and all the pools closed, swimmers took to ingenious ways of keeping fit. For me I turned to our local river and put an advert out on social media for someone to join me. 19 months later, we have a vibrant river swimming group with over 60 regular swimmers. For the second year in the row, we’re hosting our annual Festive swim and sing. Everyone dresses up in fancy dress, brings flasks full of mulled wine and lots of cake. We then do our regular swim but accompanied by musicians in a canoe singing carols.
What communities are you part of? Why not suggest a Christmas get together to sing carols? Find out in your group who is musical or who has a friend that could play an instrument. Whilst planning invest in beauty, creativity, generosity and fun. This could become an event that people look forward to each year.
2. Experience the story
Over the last year we’ve run 7 trails for our local area. Over 200 families have taken part on the teams and thousands of people have visited the trails. Last year we ran a Nativity 24-day reveal. We had a trail map, a team of 24 local families and a gift bag to give away. Families learnt more about the nativity story and experienced it as they walked around our area. We promoted this through local schools and social media. It’s been a great way to bring people together and to create fun, wholesome events for the kids.
This Christmas we’re doing a Narnia trail. We want to bring the beauty, wonder and awe of Narnia to our area. It’s a story that resonates with many of us as Christmas lights up the dark nights. We’ll be encouraging families to get a copy of the book and read it and join our trail. The trail is launching on Dec 10th, 31 houses are taking part. Each house will take a part of the story and decorate their gardens. Families will follow the trail map; the final house has a gift bag for the children. We’ll be including chocolates and a postcard that conveys the hope of the original Christmas story.
Read more here about how to run a Nativity trail.
3. Gift the story
I’ve been writing stories for families to read with their children. They are designed and printed and look really beautiful, I put them in gift bags full of seasonal treats. I’ve given out these bags on trails, at Christmas markets, to friends and at events. Have a look here at my Christmas story – Lucy and the bird. My hope is that it will raise interest in the person of Jesus and leave people wanting more. I want to give people the opportunity to hear, with limited baggage the good news of Jesus for themselves. Then they can make an educated and informed decision about what they believe.
I want to give people the opportunity to hear, with limited baggage the good news of Jesus for themselves.Tweet
In the Bible God gives a huge variety of stories, images, emotions, and metaphors. They are designed to reach each person exactly where they are and connect with them emotionally, culturally, and existentially. No matter who your friends are and what they’ve been through the Bible has a story about Jesus that will speak to them. This is a story that will speak to our friends!
Alongside the Nativity trail I wanted to tell a story. Stories can have a powerful impact, they can raise curiosity, pique interest and leave us wanting more. Below is a quote from Philip Pullman, I find his comments about stories intriguing…
“What I seem to be saying, rather against my will, is that stories come from somewhere else. It’s hard to rationalise this, because I don’t believe in a somewhere else; there ain’t no elsewhere, is what I believe. Here is all there is. It certainly feels as if the story comes to me, but perhaps it comes from me...” Magic Carpets – Essays on Story Telling.
Here is an example of the impact stories can have over a period of time…
A friend of ours became a Christian at University. She heard about how Jesus gave his life for her and was deeply moved by his sacrifice. She had grown up in China and hadn’t had the opportunity to hear for herself the Christian message. After Uni, she came to live with us for a while and spotted the Narnia stories on our bookshelves. We discussed the connections between the Christian faith and the story, and her jaw dropped. She stopped and paused and said, “we watched these films in school in China, this film meant so much to me, it was the only film I’ve ever cried at, now I understand why”.
What do I do now?
- Take some time to remind yourself of the generosity of the gift of Jesus to us. Why not pause and take some time to read one of the accounts of the birth of Jesus, watch an episode from The Chosen or have a listen to Hark the Herald Angels sing.
- List the different communities that you are a part of
- Write down ideas of how can you communicate the story and meaning of the incarnation to your community and friends this Christmas
Visit my Houses of Light Etsy shop here.
Running a Nativity trail read more here.