I’m referring to Joseph and Mary as they watched over the baby Jesus in those first hours after the birth of the child that was now theirs, but so much more. What were they thinking about their child? What did they expect would happen next? Did the thought of raising the Son of God intimidate them?
As you know, the Gospel accounts tell us very little about the emotional makeup of Joseph and Mary in those hours and days and years following the birth of Jesus. The birth, itself, is stated rather matter-of-factly by Matthew and Luke, with the latter elaborating a bit by saying that Mary took the child and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Luke also says something about Mary “treasuring up these things” (Luke 2.19), referring to her observation of the shepherds coming to see the baby Jesus. She has the same mentality a while later when she observes Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve and marvels at what she has seen. Beyond this limited insight, the Gospels leave the feelings (and intimate and internal questioning) of Joseph and Mary to our imaginations.
And that analysis speaks to the beauty of Biblical narrative. The Bible is predominantly narrative. As much as 65% of the Biblical text is in the form of narrative . . . story. God has spoken to us in story.
Why? Is that the most efficient means of transferring information? Is it the best way of instructing and commanding? Wouldn’t a bulleted-listing of what’s expected been much easier to communicate and for us to digest?
Perhaps so, if the existence of humanity were merely about obeying the Creator. But our life is about so much more. It is about relationship. And relationships are built on much more than rules and procedures. They are founded and nurtured on emotions, experiences, longings, and needs that go far deeper than words on a page.
Narrative speaks to the heart of a person with much deeper resonance than a bulleted list. Stories capture moments of life and invite participation. As we read of Joseph and Mary welcoming the baby Jesus into their lives and into our world, we naturally know something of the feelings they must have had and thoughts and questions come to our minds that surely were apart of their thinking because they have been true of the human experience since Adam and Eve started us off so many millennia ago.
But Bible stories do so much more than tug at our emotions and spark our imaginations, they teach us. They show us in vivid colors the wisdom and folly of human experiences as people succeeded or failed in their actions. The narratives of the Bible demonstrate living to us in both the fortunate and unfortunate. The stories of Scripture give the black-and-white commands of God the vibrancy of color that resonates with meaning and understanding in our minds. Stories help us see with deepened clarity what it is to seek God in our lives.
Let us always cherish the stories of the Bible.