“It’s like the great stories, Mr Frodo, the ones that really mattered…”
I was a child who lived and breathed books. I was brought up with the written word and on the power that it together with only my imagination had to transport me far away in time and space. I was raised on, as Samwise Gamgee says, the great stories.
The stories of mothers and sons. The stories of far-away places, desert heat rising off the page and making itself known in the mind’s eye. The stories of ordinary people who did remarkable things. The stories of the impossible and of how it became possible. The stories of love that could burn down a city or raise it up in glory. The stories that tell of the triumph of good over evil, and of the sacrifices made along the way.
“Remember,” said Albus Dumbledore. “Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good and kind and brave…”
This is the greatest of the great stories.
A story of a mother and her child, and of the man who loved them despite what it cost him. A story of stifling heat and an uncomfortable journey and a bare floor. A story of one woman who accepted an extraordinary task and did it with joy. A story of a man who accomplished the impossible and of his father who so loved the world that he gave us his only son. A story where good will always triumph over evil and where life will always, but always, be stronger than death. A story that is the greatest story, because it is real.
A story that will end, in two millennia or three decades or a few months, in a garden, with a man who makes a choice between what is right and what is easy.
But, they said to each other. But. They gathered around a fire on a hilltop and they said to the children who were hearing the story for the first time. It was as though they were telling a secret. And they said: That wasn’t the end of the story. And it is because that wasn’t the end of the story that we gather and we tell it again and again and again. The most ancient and the newest of stories. An old tale and a living Gospel.
Tonight, we tell each other with one voice that, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
We tell it as the body of Christ.
We tell it to remember it.
And we tell it in the name of the one whose promise was true, whose coming is certain, and whose day draws so very very near.