When you go to a library there are many sections to choose from: 'Children’s stories', 'Fiction', 'Biography', 'Factual', 'History' and many more. How you read a book depends on what section you found the book in. If it was in the ‘History’ section you would read it as reliable and factual, if it was in the ‘fiction’ section you would enjoy it for what it is – a good story, and if it was in the ‘Children’s’ section you would likely think “that’s just for kids”.
But who decides in what section a book belongs?
For many people, the Christmas story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus is either a children’s story or a fairy tale. It belongs in the “fiction” section. They might even expect it to begin with the words “Once upon a time”.
But that is not what the authors had in mind at all.
We find the Christmas story in two of the first four books of the New Testament, Matthew and Luke. While it may be called a 'story', they were certainly not writing fiction. When you read the gospels you can see that they are littered with details about when these events took place e.g. “In those days a decree went out from Caeser Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1-2). Matthew begins his book with a family tree of Jesus' parents, so we can see who He was and where He came from! Hardly “once upon a time” – more like “once in a very specific time in history”!
The authors of the gospels were not writing fairy stories. They were more like investigative reporters writing four different biographies about the same person. Here’s how the gospel of Luke begins:
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honourable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
Luke is writing an account of the life of Jesus, based on eyewitness accounts, carefully investigated, carefully put together, so that his friend, Theophilus (funny name, I know!), can be certain of what happened. He is on a quest for the truth.
When the Brothers Grimm wrote down their collection of fairy tales, they knew the stories were just that – stories. I want to suggest that they probably knew which section of the library their books would end up – fiction.
In a similar way, when the gospel writers started writing their eyewitness accounts, they also knew which section of the library their books should end up – not fairy tale, not even mere historical facts, but biography. They wrote about Jesus. They told HIS story. It was rooted in a place in time. It really happened, with historical details noted, family trees remembered, and name of places and people who really existed.
However, there is more. One of the unique things about the story of Jesus we find in the gospels, is that it reads like a biography, but resonates like a fairy tale. It carries not only facts, but also a deeper truth. A truth that, while it is rooted in history, is timeless, a story worthy of being told and re-told. It speaks to the heart as well as the head.
Jesus Christ is at the centre of an epic struggle between good and evil, where there are heroes and villans, disaster and victory. Jesus is the one History had been waiting for. All of life’s big questions: “Who God is?” “Why is the world in such a mess?” and “What is the answer?” are answered in His Story. From His humble birth, to His miraculous life, from His professional execution, to His public resurrection Jesus shows us who God is and makes a way for us to know Him. Forever! Now that’s not your normal biography!
So don’t let someone mislabel the story so you read through the filter of “this never happened”. Let the authors tell you want they saw, heard and found out about Jesus. They want you to discover what they discovered. Only then will you be able to read the rest of the story, of how this baby grew up, did wonderful things noone had ever done before and gave up His life to make it possible for you to know God, personally. All other biographies are about someone that you can’t get to know. This biography invites you to get to know the person its about.
Discover His Story this Christmas.