In school at Christmas

How well do you think you know the Nativity story?  Do you think you know all there is to know or do you actively seek to know it better year by year?  I prayed that God would show me something new in the Christmas story this year… and he did, through the children at Cann Hall School.

Last week, I spent two days telling the Nativity story to each class, encouraging them to listen and think really carefully about it.  Throughout the story, I got them to ‘wonder’ about different things… about how Mary and Joseph  may have felt about their journey, about what it may have been like for the shepherds when the angels appeared, about what the responses of the people who met the shepherds on their way back to the fields may have been.  When I asked them what their  favourite part of the story was, many of them chose the wise men, which in turn, made me wonder “what’s so appealing about them?”

One of the children thought Mary and Joseph may have felt anxious about their travels, perhaps even questioning “whether they would actually make it to Bethlehem.”  Given the harsh terrain and various dangers along the way, this would indeed have been a perilous journey to embark upon.  Another of the children suggested that the shepherds may have thought “the angels were toying with them” and that their message was some kind of joke… yet they still made their journey to Bethlehem, hurrying there even.  And when we talked about the possible responses of those who were met by the shepherds after they had seen Jesus, many of the children wondered whether they would have thought the shepherds were “crazy”, but then, “you might think this was too crazy for anyone to make it up” - which I thought was great!  So crazy that it might just be true! 

As I thought about the popularity of the wise men among the children, the enormity of their expedition struck me: travelling hundreds of miles, to a different country even, simply trusting in the words of an ancient prophecy and the movement of a new star… and I realised that in each instance, those who made each of these journeys were incredibly brave and real courage was required for them to put themselves at such risk, whether that was risk of physical danger, ridicule or trusting in something that could have turned out to be nothing.  So what compelled them?

Jesus of course, who made the most courageous journey of them all, who one of the children thought “might be worried about growing up to be a King”.  Jesus, who was born to die, but did it anyway because of his incomparable love for us.