We are a story, a living story, if we are anything, and this is one reason, maybe the best, why stories will never go out of fashion.
In my own family, much of our time together revolves around stories. We read them every night and often the children read more on their beds, flashlights in hand, before sleep, then waking the next morning to, on the long school run, often listen to more stories.
In the best of these stories, characters are as alive as you or me or the sorry soul walking down the street. We share in their joys, and, of course, more so, their troubles. In the good stories, the ones we can’t help but fall into, we’re never left the same.
Into this now comes Christmas. So, this Christmas season, the Daily Dad will share from The Story.
The Story is a global online reading guide created by Scripture Union Canada, a five-year project that aims to connect our story with God’s story.
I am among the dozens of Canadian writers who have contributed to The Story, which is now in its 82nd week of online postings. Through December, for Christmas, I’ll share five of my contributions, some reflections from the books of Matthew and Mark.
Some are among the stories read in my own family at one time or another. Others are not. Each shares a brief story or passage from Scripture, then my reflection, then, at end, a short reader response.
I hope you enjoy.
Today’s selection, here or below, is #4 of 5.
Birth Pangs of a Big Delivery
7When you hear about wars and threats of wars, don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end.8Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. There will be earthquakes in many places, and people will starve to death. But this is just the beginning of troubles.
9Be on your guard! You will be taken to courts and beaten with whips in their meeting places. And because of me, you will have to stand before rulers and kings to tell about your faith.10But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations.
11When you are arrested, don’t worry about what you will say. You will be given the right words when the time comes. But you will not really be the ones speaking. Your words will come from the Holy Spirit.
12Brothers and sisters will betray each other and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed.13Everyone will hate you because of me. But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you will be saved.
14Some day you will see that “Horrible Thing” where it should not be. Everyone who reads this must try to understand! If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains.15If you are on the roof of your house, don’t go inside to get anything.16If you are out in the field, don’t go back for your coat.17It will be an awful time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children.18Pray that it won’t happen in winter.19This will be the worst time of suffering since God created the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again.20If the Lord doesn’t make the time shorter, no one will be left alive. But because of his chosen and special ones, he will make the time shorter.
21If someone should say, “Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!” don’t believe it.22False messiahs and false prophets will come and perform miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God’s chosen ones.23But be on your guard! That’s why I am telling you these things now
Delivering a child is painful enough even if all goes well. But one of the great tragedies of modern times is that, according to world health officials, more than 300,000 women die in childbirth every year.
Poor women in places like sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia still perish today largely because they don’t have a skilled attendant, a trained professional to handle emergencies that inevitably arise during childbirth. Yet, when a child is born safe and healthy, is there any greater joy?
Jesus’ remarks about the end of the world reflect this. It will be preceded with “birth pangs,” he said. It was a quiet moment with just Peter, James, John and Andrew. The four had approached Jesus privately on the Mount of Olives, across from the Jewish Temple, to ask him about the end.
Jesus told them not to be deceived, after giving a litany of reasons why many will be. He said not to worry, after giving plenty of reasons why anyone would. Nothing was entirely clear. The disciples even had good reason to believe that theirs was the last generation. They were left to grapple with these paradoxes just as we are twenty centuries later.
But when Jesus spoke of birth pangs, he gave a valuable clue to how the end will also be a beginning. So we can prepare for something new – a new heaven and new earth – just as much as we can wonder about, and even grieve, the traumatic end of the old.
‘If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I’d still plant an apple tree today,’ is what Martin Luther once said. He knew that what we do today somehow impacts tomorrow, even earth’s new tomorrow. We can find a certain security in this, and in knowing that a Skilled Attendant will be there at the delivery.
Loving Heavenly Father: The earth, even marred and scarred and left trembling, is yours. At a time of your choosing, its end will come. Help me, while I live in it, to take care of what I can. And to find joy in knowing that it too will be reborn.