I was in school yesterday, being put through my theological paces by year 3, who never fail to pose some challenging,mind-stretching questions.
Yesterday was no exception, from the personally probing
"Do you think you pray enough?" (A: Of course I don't), through the heart-rending "Does God stick by you if you're having a bad time?" (Yes...but He wont always make the bad times stop) to the wildly speculative "What was Jesus' favourite Bible story?"
I wasn't too sure of that...wasn't even sure of my own favourite,to be honest,- but if they had wanted to know my favourite book in the Bible...well, it has always,from early childhood, been John.
John,soaring on eagle's wings above both time and space...giving me a sense of the vastness of God...trumpeting His transcendence.
I love John.
"In the beginning was the Word..." and words unlock the mystery,do it for me every time.
But.…I'm a people person too...love listening to stories, discovering how God works through ordinary people, on ordinary days.
Luke and John...so wonderfully, extraordinarily different!
One offering "an orderly account",with an eye for the finest genealogical detail, the other painting his picture with such huge brush strokes that it covers the cosmos.
One placing the birth of Jesus in a particular, specific moment in history, the other reminding us that this child is bilingual, speaking the language of both time and eternity.
Two different voices, addressing different contexts, different needs.
I am thankful for them both.
But, to return to the children's question - I have thought of one answer. Surely,in the weeks leading up to his birthday every year, he must like many another child have asked Mary
"Tell me, - tell me about how I arrived....about how you felt and what Dad said, and who came to see us..."
And gathering her small son on her knee, Mary had the same huge choice to make.
The one rooted in history
"The Emperor wanted to count the people..."?
Or the one that she was still trying to understand, the one quite different from the birthday tales of all her son's contemporaries and friends
"It all began with an angel..."