What is the Bible? The Bible is one of the most complex things to explain. In short, it is a literary anthology of 66 individual books and letters that tell the story of God. It was not written by the finger of God, but instead it was penned by at least 40 different individual human beings who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has prose and poetry. It contains history and prophecy. It has wise proverbs and beautiful psalms. It gives us some answers, but also asks a lot of questions that we are meant to wrestle with as we seek to better understand who God is and who we are.
At the very beginning, the stories that comprise the Bible were oral traditions, passed down from person to person. The gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, were not written when Jesus was still alive. Mark, the earliest gospel written according to most scholars, was not written until sometime around 30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. Even the gospels were oral stories handed down until the decision was made to write it down and preserve it, so future generations (including us almost 2000 years later) can have the story of Christ touch their lives.
I learned, in my time in seminary, that how we interact with a story, whether it be a news article, a book, or the Bible, will determine how well we absorb and retain the information. Actually holding the text in your hands, physically interacting with it, increases retention and comprehension more than if you just read it on a screen, whether it be a projection, computer, or smartphone screen. (I also learned that if you write your notes in ink in color, anything other than black, you recall the information better.) There is something unique that happens when we actually hold and read a Bible instead of just reading it on a screen.
All of this is to say that beginning this Sunday, I want to invite you to bring your bibles with you to church. I want to invite you to physically engage with the text and to hear it spoken, told out loud, like our predecessors would have done. For at least the Advent and Christmas season, we are going to stop projecting the scripture passage on the screens in the sanctuary. We will read and hear together the words of scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by human hands. These words invites us to join together with them in the story of God that is still being told today.