Most stories start with someone's decision to do something and then several actions and reactions later we come to a conclusion. Telling a story backwards means that the motivation becomes the conclusion. Hence, my new book, Walking Backwards to Christmas, tells the nativity story in reverse and makes Mary's decision to say yes to the angel the climax of the story; though I actually reach back even further to the prophesies of Isaiah and to Moses' mysterious encounter with a burning bush and a revelation of God's purpose and name.
Telling the story this way helps us discover and examine our own motivations, and also to see the relevance of the Christmas story to our own lives and to today's world. I tell it as a series of first person narratives. So we really get under the skin of the characters in the story. A few things are striking. Women take the most prominent place. There is darkness as well as light. There is horror as well as joy. This is not an easy story. God is born into a very turbulent world. People respond differently. Mary says yes. Herod says no. And a great many mothers of many slaughtered children say why. Joseph only has a dream to go on. Shepherds are caught up in the cosmic drama of salvation; and stargazers from the east learn to mistrust their maps. And everyone has to ask: Who is this child, this light come into the world?
The Christmas story is the one bit of the Bible most people know - or think they know. Telling it backwards and in the first person gives a fresh perspective and makes the known unusual, the familiar fresh.