I plan on posting something fresh and new next week about the real story of Saint Nicholas.
Fresh, shiny and new.
But this Selah from Christmas last year has been on my heart again this season as I've been rushing to get the shopping and the cards and the packing and the decorating and the shipping and the baking done.
And I've been reading the brilliant, odd, tangent-filled book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. And his thoughts on how we perceive history and the mechanisms of hindsight and rewrite and perception have had me thinking again on the contrast of the announcement of the birth of the Christ child against the backdrop of our modern cinema and graphics.
So consider again with me, if you will, the celebration of the arrival of a Savior...and how our world today might react to that news...
(originally posted December 19. 2008)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
No electric lights. No fog machines. No computer-generated battle scenes. No theater, no special effects, no spot lights, no photographs, film or orchestras.
How overwhelming for a simple group of shepherds to suddenly be audience to a night sky filled with angelic voices and beings, with that most intense and pure of energy emanating from the message, the very glory of the Lord.
In our modern culture, we are constantly inundated with imagery that is fantastical in nature. We are accustomed to and almost blase about the astonishing phantasms that pour from the imaginations and technologies of Hollywood. Entertainment films create completely new vistas and creatures, planets and galaxies.
And we expect it.
We are hard to dazzle.
And so in that regard, it seems to make more sense that the entrance of a baby Savior would come at the time in history it did. A simpler time with complex politics. An era of facile technology mixed with difficult challenges. A people who were jaded by oppression and open to miracles.
And so a host of angels was sent to announce a birth.
I wonder what it would take in today's world to get folks to pay attention to such news. Would we take it seriously if we heard it from Cirque du Soleil? Would we pay more attention if it were off Broadway or on? What kind of pyrotechnics, CG vistas, indie music scores would be enough to capture our contemplation?
And if we saw some amazing vision, would we believe it?
Maybe that's why God's messages seem a bit quieter now, a little more difficult to discern. We tend to explain away His miracles and plagiarize His artistry. I doubt we would respond in holy terror to the vision of glorious light. We would be looking for the tech crew.
But regardless of the method of the delivery, it's the message that's the thing. It's what the shepherds are told that holds the most miraculous piece. A baby born to be a Savior for the glory of God, and the peace of God resting on those He favors.
And in the end, that is what the shepherds grabbed hold of, not the experience of seeing an angel, not a discourse on the phenomenal harmonies of the host, not the glowing light of glory. After going to see this infant Jesus, they spread the word about what they had been told. They told the news that this child, this Jesus, this Christ had arrived to bring peace to man.
And when we hear this news, may we be compelled to do the same. May we lay down our casual comprehension of fantastical sights and be dazzled anew that we are loved enough in the eyes of God to warrant the arrival of His sacrificial Son.