A faithful story inherited
Luke 1: 1-4 (GNT)
1 Dear Theophilus:
Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. 2 They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. 3 And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. 4 I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.
The written word used to mean manuscripts, then books. Now in the age of screens and texts it is easy to forget that for millennia stories were passed on orally.
Only a few people would be able to write or read, most would depend on hearing news, or explanations, or traditional tales.
History came by word of mouth. Stories would perhaps change a bit in the process – Chinese Whispers, anyone?
Luke wants to give an ‘orderly account’ — to set down, if not in stone, then in a definitive and preservable fashion, the stories that have been circulating about the life of Jesus.
Even today, many thousand Nativity plays later, we see the story told in a thousand ways, traditional, modern, sometimes way out. Luke doesn’t mention the ‘Wise Men’, as Matthew doesn’t mention the ‘humble shepherds’. And neither mentions the so familiar ox and ass. Victorian hymn writers have a lot to answer for.
Every age has added a new way of retelling the old old story, the wondrous story, that The Word became flesh and lived among us.
We thank you for the storytellers in all the ages,
who have faithfully passed on the Good News.
As we prepare for Advent and Christmas
may we look afresh at the familiar stories,
marvel anew at your extraordinary gift
and pass on our ‘inheritance divine’ to a new generation.
Your Kingdom come.