A few years ago, I wrote part of an Advent devotional for us to use in our house. Inspired by the local play Beautiful Star, I wanted it to be like the ancient mystery plays, with Old Testament stories pointing all month to the birth of Jesus. As I read and researched and worked my way through the Bible stories I’d grown up with, I began to lose faith in the project. I had heard for many years that all these stories–every word in every verse—drew a straight line to Jesus. But as I dug into the stories, really searched them, that was not what I found. I began to ask questions about the Old Testament for which the answers were unclear. A friend asked me how the writing project was going, and I am sure I started like a wild animal, because the entire way I was looking at the Bible was changing, and I no longer had an answer for how it was going. I had started writing with an end game in mind that I no longer believed in. I felt alone and scared and lost without the foundation I had always known.
After I posted about reading the Bible with Atticus, I got a lot of suggestions to read The Jesus Storybook Bible. So here’s the deal. I like The Jesus Storybook Bible. Sort of. I read through all of it last week to be sure I was giving it a fair reading, and while it does resist drawing simple conclusions in most of the stories, it doesn’t really address the overall concerns I have about reading the Old Testament with Atticus. Namely that stories about people almost slaughtering their sons because they think God told them to are not, in my opinion, for kids. But I also think that imposing a narrative on these stories, forcing them to point to Jesus, is asking the Old Testament to do something it was never intended to do, trying to make it be something that it isn’t. This is what I am continuing to wrestle with. Never have I been more aware of my smallness as a human being than when I think about trying to share the Bible with Atticus.
I did not finish writing those Advent devotions, and I doubt I ever will. But the work I did on them was precious to me, painful and hopeful at the same time. As the Bible did not meet my expectations, I was forced to ask different questions, and then simply to listen to what it was telling me. Over the years, I have written a lot of words here about Advent, about watching and waiting. This year has been more quiet for me. We have a few traditions we are sharing with Atticus: a calendar and a book Mike got at the used bookstore. I wrapped all our Christmas storybooks and he opens one each night. It has felt good to take the focus off of myself and what I am learning, to create a space for Atticus to experience this story all on his own. The other night we were reading and when Mike told Atticus about the glory shining all around, I got tears in my eyes. That’s what I hope we are passing on to him, a little bit of wonder at the heavenly glory.