Season’s greetings from the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE)! It is our hope that this season finds you deeply embedded in the Story of the One sent from the Father to bear the burden of our sins.
Writing the previous sentence gives me pause. Is such a story even fathomable? Do we really know, I mean really know, the Story?
My wife Jill and I had the incredible experience of spending two weeks in Israel this summer. The opportunity to get lost in the wilderness, to climb Mt. Carmel, and to walk where Jesus walked was our chance to go deeper into the Story. For those of you into learning modalities, we were able to add two modalities, Visual and Kinesthetic, to our Auditory and Reading/Writing ways of understanding the biblical story.
There were so many moments when we realized our misunderstandings of the Story because of how we had originally learned the stories of the Bible. Jill and I shifted our perspective on what an actual manger looked like, how long it must have taken to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem for feasts and celebrations, the architectural brilliance needed to build ancient temples and waterways, and how God used the Jewish imagery of weddings to describe God’s kingdom.
Apparently we aren’t the only ones whose biblical understanding needs revision. Marty Solomon, co-host of our favorite new podcast (The Bema Podcast), talks about the “lullaby effect”—being so familiar with certain aspects of the Bible but not the whole story. Tim Macki, BibleProject, refers to this phenomenon as the “VeggieTales Effect.”
“I hope . . . that the birth of Jesus is interrupting you in faithful ways.”David Mosterd
I don’t think there is anyone to blame for my narrow views except myself for not reading the Bible more deeply and challenging my familiar interpretations. Our trip’s spiritual guide David Mosterd sent me an email this week with this opening line: “I hope you are doing well this Advent season . . . and that the birth of Jesus is interrupting you in faithful ways, as it is doing to me.”
That same day, John Murray sent me a link to this column he wrote. I am pretty sure these two emails found their way to my inbox most intentionally to interrupt and disrupt how I have been thinking about the Christmas story this year. Below are a few excerpts (but I encourage you to read the full article), used with permission from John and Fox News (published on December 17, 2023).
Several years ago, when I was leading a multi-racial school community, I was saddened to discover how erroneous my Christmas decorations were. Preparing to decorate my office with traditional Christian ornaments, I noticed for the first time how my manger scene was not biblically accurate—from Joseph and Mary to the Angel Gabriel, to most importantly, the baby Jesus.
It was humbling to admit this blind spot to my colleagues of color—especially considering that I had been teaching a class for years that addressed these types of unbiblical images.
And for those who may consider this a woke exercise in critical Christmas theory—it was not.
It was realizing for the first time that my decor was ironically a White Christmas and not biblical at all. As I took out my Nativity books that I had read to my children for years, I was faced with the same reality—images of the holy family in my image—not those of Middle Eastern Jews.
As I share with my students, I never thought twice about the pictures of Jesus that I grew up seeing because they reflected my image–from Renaissance paintings to the ubiquitous “Head of Christ” by Warner Sallman.
As I seek God’s forgiveness for the times I have not represented His image or that of His Son through my actions, I am reminded of the powerful charge St. Paul gave to the Church of Corinth: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
For the power of Jesus transforms us, bringing forgiveness of sin and restoring us back to His original intent of reflecting His image. A much-needed message this Christmas season.
Dear friends of CACE, may the birth of Jesus interrupt you in faithful ways as we reflect God’s image!