The more I study the craft of writing, the more I read like a writer. I look at how the author tells the story, what adjectives and verbs they use, whose POV they use, and how many “rules” they break. Since I’ve become a critique partner with three other writers, I’m used to looking for ways the story could be better – what could be left out or added to make it stronger.
Now, when I read a book, I analyze its structure, shaking my head at what is wrong, but highlighting those things well done, hoping I can duplicate the strengths of the writer. So is it any wonder when I heard and read the familiar Christmas story that I experienced it the same way?
It’s a simple story, right? If you were to write a tagline, what would you say? “How God saved the world by sending his Son?” “How Deity Became flesh so we could be redeemed?” “How God showed His love by giving us His Son?” I’m sure you can think of others. But when you read the story, it’s far from simple.
For years, Israel, the people of God, looked forward to a Messiah. They expected a royal king born in a palace. A warrior-king like David who would lead the army into battle against their oppressors and establish a new kingdom for them.
But wait. The story was different than expected. The prophecy said he would be born to a virgin. However, the virgin in question, Mary, had not been married, so getting pregnant out of wedlock was a sin. A sin punishable by stoning. Yet this virgin was engaged. No doubt public opinion would guess the father. But the father knew it wasn’t him. What should he do? CONFLICT.
An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him the baby is the Messiah and everything is okay. RESOLUTION.
Joseph accepts Mary’s condition. All is well. The baby’s almost here. But wait. Caesar Augustus has called for a census requiring everyone to travel back to their home towns to register. He had to take nine-month pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. CONFLICT.
And so they proceed, slowly, to Bethlehem. RESOLUTION
But when they get there, there’s no place to stay and Mary’s having contractions. CONFLICT
They are offered a stable to stay in and share with the animals. The baby Messiah is born. RESOLUTION.
All is well. The baby is welcomed by shepherds. So Mary and Joseph have a healthy baby boy they take home to raise. But wait. Some wise men have been looking for him a long time and followed a star to find him. They stopped at the king’s palace to ask directions, not knowing the king wasn’t interested in worshipping a new one, and inadvertently tipped him off to a potential usurper to his throne. The wise men find Jesus and worship him. But wait. Now the current king, Herod, seeks to kill the baby. CONFLICT.
Joseph has a dream warning him to go to Egypt and stay gone until the king is no longer a threat. He leaves with Mary and the baby. Jesus is safe. RESOLUTION.
Wow! What a story! No wonder it has captured the interests of millions for centuries! A great plot, lots of excitement and hooks to grab our interest and keep us reading to the end.
But we know the story didn’t end there. It continued to the adult Jesus was crucified for the redemption of the world. It continued to His glorious resurrection when He won the victory over death for us. And it continues today in the lives of His believers. So now, we can read the story not only as an observer, but also as one of the characters, because we’re included. We’re part of the world He came to save. And Praise God, His point of view has now become ours.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 CONFLICT
“For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 RESOLUTION