Monday, December 23, 2013

The Christmas Story

Someone was discussing the greatest Christmas movie ever. Movies like Gremlins and Die Hard were being mentioned. Of course there are a zillion adaptions of Santa and Scrooge. I wondered why none of them told about or even referenced the birth of Jesus. Sure there is The Nativity Story but that is the exception that proves the rule. It is the only movie Hollywood has ever made of the nativity story. That is a story almost everyone knows yet the movie industry basically ignored it until 2006. Why is that?

One problem is the Christmas story is supernatural at every turn. Modern man does not like the supernatural yet every scene in the Christmas story has it. Angels are all over the place. An impossible birth of John the Baptist to an elderly woman and then an even more impossible birth of Jesus to a virgin. Then there is a star in the East and people being warned in dreams. Simeon makes impossible predictions. It just goes on and on.

People are more comfortable with the spirit of Christmas. Nice warm fuzzy feelings are safe. People giving. Families and Friends taking time to say some kind words to each other and do something nice for each other. The stories of Scrooge and Santa capture this well. A host of other Christmas stories do to, It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn.

The story of Jesus can be told in that way but it does not really fit. The theme there is God giving but man not really responding well. Mary gives the right response but she is the only one. Zachariah has doubts and needs to be struck dumb. Joseph wants to divorce Mary and needs a dream to set him straight. The shepherds and wise men need extraordinary encouragement to respond. The town of Bethlehem has no room and forces the Holy family into a stable. Then there is Herod. At the end Mary and Joseph are alone and running with Jesus to Egypt.

The other problem is the story is really about Mary and not so much about Jesus. Evangelicals are really not comfortable with Mary. You see that in The Nativity Story movie. They don't know what to do with the Mary character. The part ends up poorly written and poorly acted. They do a much better job with Joseph because he has some conflict. Making a sinless person interesting is hard because not only can they not do the wrong thing, they can't even come close to doing the wrong thing.

The truth is a lot of people who call themselves Christian are really sentimentalists in disguise. The Christmas story is not sentimental. It is the people of darkness seeing a great light. We are the people of darkness. Jesus is the great light. We don't really want to face human darkness.So we paint a nice picture. Silent night, Holy night, all is calm all is bright. O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie. Above that deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. A nice baby coming into a nice world.

The trouble is that is not the story. The world was so not nice that God has to do miracle after miracle to pull this off. God has to give Mary a special grace to make her a suitable mother for this child. He has been at wok for 42 generations to make this happen. The story is about man's sin forcing God to go to great lengths to make this happen and He does it. Are we willing to hear that story?

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