Earlier this week, I told a story. It was a public event, sponsored by the Courier Journal. I was happy to say yes, because as I understood it the event was meant to strengthen our community by moving the hearts of participants and by strengthening the bonds of community around us.
When I was in East Tennessee as Bishop of Knoxville, I had the occasion to learn about the famous National Storytelling Festival in Jonestown, Tenn., and I even visited the annual gathering one October.
The festival brings together professional storytellers. Their stories are meant to touch the imagination, entertain the listener and perhaps convey a powerful lesson like only a good story can.
I must say that when I was growing up, telling a story usually meant make-believe or at least stretching the truth. The story I told earlier this week was all true. It was about my brother and me at Christmas time and specifically about the basketball we got when I was 7 and he 12. Telling it brought back such a flood of memories. Go to www.courier-journal.com and search for the Storytellers Project, for more information about the event.
In a similar vein, about two weeks ago I was invited by the “Young at Heart” Club at St. Bernadette Church to speak about Advent and Christmas preparation. I chose to focus on two phrases: remember and pass on.
The Greek word for remember is anamnesis and is used especially in the holy Eucharist when we speak of remembering Jesus and His saving works. At the Last Supper, when Jesus took bread and wine and declared these gifts to be his very body and blood, He said, “Do this in memory of me.”
The second word, traditio, means in Latin to pass on. In First Corinthians, St. Paul, speaking of the holy Eucharist, says: What I have received from the Lord, I pass on to you.”
The “Young at Heart” and I reminisced about Advent and Christmas. That was most enjoyable. Then they went on to share how they seek to pass on the traditions to their children and grandchildren and other neighbors. This is not always easy to do in this age so dominated by the immediate and the secular. Nevertheless, young people love a story — and the story of the birth of our Savior captures the imagination.
In three days, we will celebrate Christmas, and there is no better time of the year for all of us — young and old, those steeped in the life of Christ and His Church and those at a distance — to pause, to remember and to pass on.
We will hear the story about the birth of a Savior. The circumstances of that silent night in Bethlehem, the shepherds and the manger, the angels and the animals will all bring to life the deepest truth of the story: that time in history now 2,000 years ago when the Son of God bent low to become a human being — one of us — so that He might show us the way to fullness of life and give us the power to follow.
What a great time to get to church to visit the crèche or manger scene and to pray with young and old. It is also a wonderful opportunity to share what Christmas was like when we were young. The gathering for a meal after the presents are open is a rich opportunity to share the special story that brings this blessed season of Christmas to life for us.
Telling stories can be so powerful in our lives, and the true story of Christmas has to be the best of them all. We remember, and we pass on. Merry Christmas!