Two years ago, Christmas time marked the beginning of a busy rehearsal schedule for the Easter Passion play that I was involved in at my church. It was a big deal – huge set pieces, lots of lights, orchestra, cast of 100, thousands of audience members… I loved it!
We’re doing it again this year. And by “we”, I mean our church – not me personally this time. (I have enough drama going on in my family right now; it’s just not choreographed as well.) But I did dig up the rough DVD that was made of our performances in order to lend it to a friend who wanted to know what she was getting herself into when she auditioned. Before I gave it to her, I watched it again myself.
Two years have provided enough “distance” that I was able to watch it more as a spectator than I could before. It was deeply emotional to see it without having to concentrate on blocking and song cues and all those memorized lines. I was freshly overwhelmed by the story – that God gave up His rightful place on the throne of Heaven and stepped down into the mess of humanity, knowing full well that it would cost Him His life.
It was also great to get caught up in the nostalgia of it as I watched. All those hours of rehearsal, the late nights, the endless repetition of scenes and songs, the bonds that were formed amongst the cast… such great memories. Faces came and went on the screen – some people that I’ve maintained close friendships with since then, and some that I haven’t really seen since the final show – but every single one of them, so precious. So committed to telling the story of Jesus. Contributing their own stories into the larger picture, weaving their own hurts and hang-ups, faults and failures, triumphs and treasures into the grand plot of God’s redemptive plan.
Towards the end of the show (spoiler alert), Jesus is crucified. I bawled watching it. How could it affect me so deeply after hearing that story so many times and for so many years already? I’ve seen passion plays before. I’ve seen Mel Gibson’s movie of it. And I saw it dozens of times as we rehearsed. It was the same story. Why was it suddenly piercing me in a new way?
Because it was the same story.
Two years have changed the stories of all those cast members. Collectively, these two years have brought engagements, weddings, college graduations, newborn babies, new jobs…but also a miscarriage, a death, a cancer diagnosis… Our stories have changed significantly.
But God’s story has stayed the same. Two thousand years haven’t changed His story. A story that started amidst political upheaval and speculations of a scandalous affair. A story that pitched two seemingly random, ordinary people onto an unexpected life trajectory. A story that had been in the works since the beginning of time, but came into being in a crude, little animal shelter. A story that built from humble beginnings to an unfathomable climax: the violent death of God’s own Son. And then – surprise! The story wasn’t over yet. That Son reclaimed His life out of Satan’s hands and spent a few more days with His friends and followers before returning to His Father’s side.
He came. He lived. He died. He lived again. And soon He’ll come again.
The story of Jesus has not changed. But it can change us, if we let it. It’s the only way for our stories to make sense.
This Christmas, whether you are enjoying days of celebration with family and friends, or struggling to keep your head above water in tumultuous seas, may you be touched and blessed by the story of Jesus. May the reality of His life supersede the reality of yours. And may you truly experience peace, joy, and love in the year ahead!
Merry Christmas, dear ones!