Story or Plot: On Christmas and Purpose…

Posted by on Dec 10, 2023 in Blog | 2 comments

grayscale photo of a nativity figurines

EM Foster wisely noted the difference between a story and a plot. “The king died and then the queen died” is a story. It’s a chronological sequence of events. However, it becomes a plot if you add two words, “The king died and then the queen died of grief.” Plot suggests cause and effect. A plot introduces a purpose, a because. It makes a story interesting and draws us in.

“So what?” you ask – and fair enough. Too many of us are living stories without plots – lives that have no essential “because” or purpose. They are just a sequence of one event that follows another, going to wherever it finally ends, and when it does, we may ask in bewilderment, “so what was that all about?”

Is life essentially random chance, going no where in particular, or is it a purposeful plot in which we are invited to help write something larger, something we could call “The story of God”? Part of the hope found in following Jesus is the sense of purpose and direction that comes when we find ourselves to be part of this much larger story.

In a few weeks time it is Christmas. For many, Christmas is a happy sequence of events that largely revolve around feasting, festivity and family – all very worthy things. But Christmas is a story with a clear plot line. Both the manager and the Cross were made of wood, and the shadow of Calvary was never far from the Bethlehem of Jesus’ birth. Well intentioned wise men informed the despotic King Herod that an alternate ruler had been born, and the consequences were immediate. Mary and Joseph had to whisk the young Jesus away to the refuge of Egypt. The story of God entering our world, living among us, teaching us, healing us, challenging us and eventually dying for us, is deeply moving and has been breathtaking in its impact. All of history changed the day God became “one of us”.

It’s a strange plot, isn’t it? Who would think that God becoming human, living with us and for us, and then dying on our behalf would have such a radical impact? But it has – because this is not just a story, one thing happening after another. It’s an ambitious plot saturated with purpose – the ending of humanities alienation from God. To do that, God also sent the Holy Spirit, births the Church, gifts us the Bible, and sends us out on mission together. Jesus states his mission in John 10:10 “I am come that you might have life, and life in all its fullness.” It’s a radical mission statement, and one that invites us to dive into all that relationship with Jesus offers.

Christmas is so much more than a sentimental story about a sweet baby who received unexpected gifts from shepherds and wise men. It’s a rich, “because” filled plot, where everything matters and nothing is lost. It is about the repositioning and reshaping of the world. In Colossians 1:17 we are informed that in Jesus, all things hold together. This is a plot where nothing makes sense until the name of Jesus is spoken and the face of Jesus is seen. It is a plot that provides a why and a direction for my story, your story and the story of the world…

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Guilman on

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  1. “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).

    For Jesus, being born and coming into the world were two separate things. We humans had no choice: we were just born. Jesus chose to come into the world.

  2. Glory to God – such a glorious plot

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