If I had to choose one book of the Bible that I connect with most, it would have to be the book of Luke. I think it’s because Luke recorded his stories as a journalist, conducting interviews, double checking sources, and pulling all of his research together into a narrative meant to introduce us to Jesus.
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover twice, each time keeping a notebook nearby to jot down thoughts. When I first started the project, I thought I’d be making note of “aha” moments; instead, I found myself filling the pages with questions. What does this mean? What was life like when that happened? Why did the writer include that passage? And why did God say this again (and again and again)?
It seems I’m not alone in the way I approached the Bible. In his new book, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, author and musician Michael Card explores the Gospel of Luke using a study process he calls “biblical imagination,” trying to understand those moments in biblical history beyond the few words on the page.
Just for fun, I asked my Facebook friends to sum up the Bible in one word. Their responses ranged from “hope,” “guidebook” and “alive” to “old,” “fiction,” and “toilet paper.”
But not “amazing.”
Maybe that’s because we don’t read the Bible expecting to be amazed. We’re surrounded by so many amazing things every day – electricity, indoor plumbing, organ transplants, space travel – that we’ve become immune to the concept. We treat the Scriptures like outdated literature, worth slogging through as part of our religion, but a text lacking in anything that would actually boggle our mind.
But what if you read the Bible with your imagination? Let’s try it, with Luke 2:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
If you’re like me, that passage brings to mind Linus on stage in the TV classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Creative? Yes. Classic holiday fare? Absolutely. Amazing? Not really.
But for just a moment, imagine yourselves in the sandals of the shepherds, “keeping watch over their flock by night.”
Imagine the vast sky unmarred by the fluorescent lights of a nearby city or trails of jet exhaust. Just a vast darkness stretching in every direction as far as the eye can see.
Imagine the quiet of the countryside. No highway noises. No cell phones beeping. Nothing except the breathing of your animal companions and the soft voices of you and your fellow shepherds, fellow outcasts of society, sharing stories of your day over the evening campfire.
Imagine acres of sheep, sleeping after a day of grazing. Perhaps there’s a dog at your feet, your work partner and faithful companion, snoring quietly after hours spent keeping your flock in order.
Can you smell the campfire smoke? Smell the dank, musky animal odor permeating your clothing? Feel the night breeze blowing softly across your face? Feel the weight of the midnight silence weighing heavily around you?
Now imagine that night quiet broken by the presence of an angel and the “glory of the Lord.” Imagine the dark night sky split by unimaginable light! Imagine thousands of heavenly voices filling the quiet night air!
Imagine the hosts of heaven appearing with the message that the Savior has been born, and that God has chosen you, a lowly shepherd toiling on the fringe of society, to hear the message first. And not only do the angels deliver the message, they give you specific directions so you can find the Christ child, offering a personal invitation to meet God’s Son in the flesh.
Now that’s amazing, isn’t it?
Award-winning freelance writer and blogger Joanne Brokaw writes about everything from entertainment to animal rescue for a variety of publications. Follow along on her blog, www.NotesFromThe FunnyFarm.com.