If you’re watching a movie and it takes a twist you weren’t expecting, what do you and how do you feel?
One of the first ones I remember was the moment in the first Star Wars when I was in the theater (yes, I grew up as the movies were originally released) when while fighting Darth Vader, Obi Wan Kenobi says, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
And within 2 minutes – down he went! I screamed with Luke, “No!”
We get to know and love our characters in a story and then something happens to them. They get neutralized or hurt or killed.
We share in their vulnerability and pain and wonder with them if they will emerge on the other side.
And what is it about myths and stories that we relate to so well? Why is it when a story grabs our heart, we want more than anything to know how it ends?
The Unexpected Twist in the Plot of Our History
No one – I mean no one – was expecting what God did to capture our hearts in his story. Because as we read about the event, it’s clear everyone was surprised, with their varied reactions. And just like the twist no one thought was coming, God entered the scene.
When you read the narrative, the only real drama I notice is the angels. When angels come along, yeah, there’s going to be drama because they are on the front lines of the war and battles. They walk the earth interacting with the humans who are mostly clueless about any drama.
What might have been expectations that everyone was so surprised? It’s quite well known that the vast majority of the Jewish world at this time expected deliverance. Real national and political deliverance from a real national and political threat: Rome. The people of Israel couldn’t claim their own independence and sovereignty for centuries.
So it almost makes sense there were a different set of expectations by the populous than what happened in reality. I have heard what God did in becoming a zygote in the womb of Mary was no less than an invasion. An invasion into enemy territory.
A Territory Fraught With Danger and Drama
Sure, a teenage girl’s womb is probably the safest place to have been located. A young body of a young human also sensitive the voice of God. I don’t know exact numbers, but up until this past century for every healthy-born baby, there were probably many stillbirths. And many more that never made it past a few weeks or months of age. So yes, even becoming an embryo, fetus and baby had its dangers.
And the enemy knew all of this. The Hero was about to come onto the scene of the drama. And how would we humans perhaps have written that scene?
Here comes the man of strength and daring, blazing across the sky or the landscape to save the day, striking the deadly blow to the villain, beginning the end of the drama!
But is that how God did it? Was there drama and a decisive blow to the villain?
Not as we might have expected, no. While Israel wanted national deliverance, God had something much, much bigger in mind: the whole earth and all of humanity from past to present!
Today, living here in the U.S., I hear a lot of the same thing: “We must get back to God and win our nation back for him!” “We’ve lost the Christian roots of our nation and need to regain those to make this land better again!”
Do we? Does “our land” really need rescuing?
I would say not just our land, but the entire earth – all of humanity – needs rescuing. The U.S., while to me the best place on earth to live, isn’t the only place worth saving!
Jesus didn’t come here 2000 years ago to preserve any nation. He came here to rescue hearts of people. “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” That’s how God does the work of deliverance.
Christmas is the ultimate plot twist in the story of history and redemption. Perhaps the enemy knew that’s how God was going to do it. After all, the scriptures proclaimed the virgin birth and over and over again God spoke words like that verse above that true power and help come quietly from God, not force.
Christmas is about the heart – God’s kingdom is about the heart, always.