I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the Grinch these past few weeks. I’ve got it memorized, as do the kids. In fact, they are starting to cotton on when i try to skip a line or two in order to move things on along toward bedtime. “No, mom, you forgot the part where…”
Meanwhile, in my own reading life, i am making nightly trips to Hogwarts–again. This is probably my third time reading the newer books, more like 4th or 5th on some of the older ones. I’ve got other characters and places, as well, that i tend to re-visit once very two or three years. Mitford; Roland and his Ka-tet; and once I’m done with Harry again, I’m going to take another run at the Outlander series. I mean, all the bits and pieces of that one got a little overwhelming. I want to go back and experience the whole sweeping expanse of narrative again, with a little more sense of who i’m dealing with and where they’re all going.
Some stories, we just never get tired of. We want to hear them again and again and again. In fact, instead of becoming tiresome, they seem to take on new and deeper meaning with every read. (Or watch, as the case may be–if you’ve seen Forrest Gump or Coal Miner’s Daughter more times than me, then you may need to get out more). They become our stories–or at least, pieces of our story–and they can somehow be comforting in their familiarity and exciting in their newness, all at the same time.
Each year, as we approach Christmas and Christmas Eve in the life of the church, I think how am i supposed to tell this story AGAIN? We’ve heard it, we know it, let’s go home and open presents. And yet…as the day approaches, i find the story unfolding and telling itself, yet again, in some wonderful new way that has nothing to do with me. It may be the busiest time of the year–and yet, the closer we get to Christmas, the more my calendar seems to clear itself of everything but worship and narrative; and by Christmas Eve, all i have to do is pretty much show up and open the doors. Well, and plug in the tree. That’s nice too.
We can hear a story again and again…and again, and somehow manage to never hear the same story twice. Because we, our very selves, are different each time we visit. Whether it’s Hogwarts or Midworld or Bethlehem, we encounter a new little glimpse of ourselves upon arrival, and take in some unforeseen view of the world. Something about the familar lay of the land makes us all the more ready to witness a new and evolving strand of narrative that we’d maybe never noticed before.
I’ve been letting my kids play with the nativity set at home this year. Actually, i should say setS. We’ve got about 4 different assortments of shepherds, wise men and company, all of them missing some pieces, and none of them matching in size or texture. Add to the mix some fisher price ‘little people,’ some HappyMeal action figures, and whomever else comes for playtime on a given day, and well…you never know who you’re going to meet at the stable.
That’s why we may need to hear it again. And again. And maybe tomorrow, and maybe again, same time next year. The story might not change, but we sure will–as long as we have ears to hear. Besides, maybe we missed something the first time.