By Laurel Pattenden
Books were not a big part of my growing up years and the only time I went to a library was when the “Bookmobile” came around to the elementary school once a month or so.
I can still remember going into the Bookmobile and choosing a Thorton Burgess illustrated book, and the librarian telling me that the book was below my age group. Feeling somewhat shamed, I shrugged, and still check it out. I was a terrible reader, but I loved well done illustrations.
It wasn’t until Grade 10 English class that I fell in love with my first classical story in literature.
Poor Miss M…, our red haired, middle aged, single English teacher, facing a whole classroom of girls in the commercial stream. Our minds were not strongly focused on literature. However, dressed in her white blouses and tartan skirts, she boldly took on the curriculum and began to read to us the gothic tragedy “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte.
Class after class, we would listen to this story. Class after class, I fell more in love with this story. Or maybe the experience of the story. Such a treat to listen to a superb reader. It was a true immersion for me, a below average reader, into the world of literature. Absolutely mesmerizing!
My sweet memory of this time was the pure freedom to just listen. To experience a story of that level took me into a whole, new depth of enjoying a story. We didn’t have to dissect the story until the end. At this time, I can’t actually remember any dissecting but it was an English class so there must have been! Forget about the Cole’s Notes! I just remember the story. The experience.
This time of year, we are all focused on another story. This story, too, is best listened to, read out loud to ourselves or others.
We rarely read the story of the birth of Jesus all in one sitting. We tend to read or hear parts every Sunday and then listen to explanations of the scripture reading.
Sometimes these explanations enhance the story but sometimes I wonder if they detract from experiencing the story. I understand the need and place for discussing scripture. Yet, I also feel it’s a detraction from the wonder of the Christmas story.
When you first heard this story as a child, did it matter that you didn’t know the significance of the Old Testament prophesies? Did it cause you to debate the reason why Mary went to visit Elizabeth? As a child, did you stop and research the fact of a Roman census during the time frame of the story? Were we worried about historical fact? Did we not think of the Magi as mysterious, sparkling visitors from the east not caring how many?
I wish Miss M... was still here to read to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear her read the Christmas story from start to finish? To hear the wonder of it and take it into our hearts. Forgetting the Cole’s Notes. Forgetting all those little study notes at the bottom of the pages in our Bibles.
Bonaventure wrote “To know much and taste nothing--of what use is that?” This Christmas, let us be in the cold with the shepherds, flying in the heavens with the angels, peering into the manger in the dark night. Let us ride our camels to visit the baby.
The majesty and reverence of this story is still open to us. There is only one of its kind. Are you open for the experience? It will be absolutely mesmerizing!
Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.