I forgot I loved the story.

We did something uncharacteristic for churches last Christmas Eve. I didn’t preach. We read the story of Jesus’ birth and early life from Luke’s Gospel and sang Christmas hymns. There was no sermon, reflection, homily or commentary on the evening’s purpose … and people enjoyed it.

That is not to say that I’m a horrible preacher who bores people to death. (I have about 20 more years in ministry before I reach that milestone.)

What people enjoyed and responded to was simply the story. The story of a child born to parents on a dark night where hope was kindled anew.

Too often, I forget that there is power in story.

Arguments, theological insights, wise sayings and other logical constructions of human minds have their place, but they pale in comparison to the power of a story to stir long buried feelings and forgotten memories. The drama and the description, the humanity and the possibility, that lie within the stories we hold dear affect us in ways that we cannot place into words.

That Christmas Eve, the story came to life again with the telling. It stirred within the people who gathered to hear. It stirred within me. I felt the power of the story when I led the prayers to consecrate the bread and the wine, another story, unique, but tied, deeply, to the Christmas story. Both gifts from God, for us, given in love.

I knew this, theologically, intellectually, I could tell you the gift of love in the Incarnation of God in Christ born in Bethlehem. I could explain how God’s love and grace are present and active in Holy Communion. But, that night, I was moved by the story of that love, not the theology, not the logic, the story.

Never forget the power of the story.

It is one thing to say God loves you, it is another, greater thing, to tell the story of that love.

The Rev. Justin Smoot is pastor of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, LaGrange. Contact him at justin.h.smoot@gmail.com.

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