Stories and story, narratives and metanarratives. In the modern-become-postmodernizing world— the world of whatever —the best we seem capable of is that there are lots of stories to be told, and none are true to the way the world really is, because nothing is “true” like that.
In thousands of ways, this is my life, week after week, year after year, entering into the hope of a Story that makes sense of every story with people wherever they find me, and I find them. The Tiananmen leaders yearning to make sense of the rest of life, the mid-career executives who are “bored” with their success, the twenty-somethings hoping against hope that life is about something more… in all these conversations my longing is for the truth of human life under the sun, for the reality that human existence is more than mere existence. But of course to see it that way requires that we believe there is a way that the world really is— whether we like it, or want it, or believe it, or choose it.
When I first began to see the Bible as more than a collection of stories about heroic people, and began to understand that there was a metanarrative, a story that made sense of all the stories, I was drawn to the meaning of Genesis 3:15. If the first chapters of Genesis tell of the good genesis of everything and everyone, the third chapter tells of the fall of everything and everyone, of when and why and how the “bentness” began, and the world was wounded. But before that story of curse is over God promises that it will not be forever, that there will be a conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, saying to the serpent, “He will crush your head, even as you bite his heel.” Though all seems lost, all is not lost.
History and hope meet in that promise.
This morning, Christmas Eve morning, I was reading Abraham Kuyper as I am prone to do in my most meditative moments, “Enmity Between Thy Seed and Her Seed,” his sermons on the liturgical year.
“The first mention in Holy Writ of Christmas night is when in Paradise Adam and Eve, but also Satan himself, who had tempted them, passed under God’s terrible judgment. In that moment which dominated the lot of the whole world, it has pleased God, in the midst of the terror of judgment, under which the transgressor succumbed, to announce the Christmas night and the manger of Bethlehem….
“So in Paradise God spoke of the woman, of a child that was to be born of a woman, and of this born child as of the Savior and Redeemer who would set men free from Satan’s violence and cunning. This is a prophesy of Bethlehem, a calling in from afar of Christmas night.”
For all that is forgotten amidst the romanticism of red-nosed reindeer and jolly old Saint Nick, for all of “peace on earth and goodwill to men” in a world of sorrow and hurt, heartache and suffering, for all that often seems so far from anything we honestly experience, we hold in our hearts the hope that all is not lost— and that that has something to do with this night, and the story we remember to remember about the manger of Bethlehem.