’Tis the season! This year has been especially challenging, and my sense is that people are looking for the joy of Christmas now more than ever. I’ve witnessed lights and trees going up just a little earlier than normal. I’ve heard Christmas music playing to lift people’s spirits, and everyone is hoping for opportunities to safely gather and celebrate anything good (perhaps the best part being this crazy year nearing an end!).
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt a sense of loss, disappointment, anger or frustration in the last several months. From the ongoing pandemic and its ravaging impact on the world, to the extra-contentious political landscape forging greater mountains of divide, to the numerous hurricanes and wildfires showing no discrimination in their paths of devastation, 2020 has been the wildest ride of ups and downs. And, frankly, I think most of us are a little nauseous from this rollercoaster. We’re sickened, exhausted and oh, so weary of holding on for dear life.
Would somebody please ignite some rescue flares? We could use some help!
While I jest about the flashy SOS, there’s an interesting irony and a timeless truth that are in lock-step with it. The irony is this: while it might seem like this is the most unique time in history, it tells a tale that’s as old as time. The human condition is one that begs for a savior, and we’ve watched a million movies and read a million books with that exact plot.
Look at the highly predictable, yet irresistible Hallmark movies. Every single one is the story of someone in the midst of conflict who, by the end of the show, is saved by the true meaning of love. And for sure, every Disney film has a person or kingdom in peril, desperately needing to be saved by a valiant hero. Not into those? Take a look at the more action-packed varieties: Die Hard (my hubby lands there seemingly every time he channel surfs), Braveheart, James Bond, Mission Impossible. Each one is a narrative of good versus evil which requires at least one righteous person to save another, if not many. How about one of the greatest series ever written and filmed, Star Wars? If you combine all six films into a single story, it’s about the rise and fall of one of the most powerful Jedis in history, Anakin Skywalker. He discovers his powers, rises in rank, is misled by his own fears, becomes corrupted by power and then is finally redeemed by love – the love of a son.
The biggest blockbusters are deemed so by our demand, but it’s not just to satisfy our our desire to be entertained. It’s to watch stories that play out the real need of our soul.
And while these are all movies versus incredibly difficult real-life scenarios like we’re experiencing this year, the timeless truth is this: we will have conflicts, enemies and losses in every year, and the only One who can rescue us from the devastating effects of them all is Jesus.
How do we know? Scripture definitively reassures us.
If we look at nothing else other than the overarching, bigger story of the Bible, it can be summarized by two words alone: rescue mission. While there are hundreds of smaller accounts of God saving His people from their enemies, themselves or from evil, the larger narrative of the Bible scripts the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. Scholars call this the metanarrative – the comprehensive explanation or guiding theme that illuminates all other themes in a text. Essentially, it’s the story encompassing and explaining the smaller plots within. Over and over, the Bible in both large and small ways tells about how we as humans don’t handle life well on our own. We fall short, mess it up, God comes in to save us, redeem us and make us whole again. It always comes back to knowing Him as the hero of our story.
Do you know God as the Rescuer He is?
Here’s what scripture tells us:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
I love this illustration, written by Gregory Koukl in The Story of Reality…
On a flight from Jacksonville to Miami I spoke with a dear Muslim woman about the differences between the God of Jesus and the God of Mohammed. I said that both were holy and both demanded we be holy, too, and there will be justice to pay because we are not. But on this issue of justice, I said, we come to an important distinction.
I asked the Muslim woman to imagine our plane being hijacked and the terrorists trying to drag her out onto the tarmac to kill her in front of cameras for all the world to see. I then asked her to imagine that I put my own body between hers and the attackers and said, “Don’t take her. Take me instead.” She said she could not imagine anyone doing that for her.
Yet this, I told her, is what God has done in Jesus. To satisfy justice, God came down. Not Allah; Yahweh. Not Mohammed; Jesus. God stepped out of Heaven and dwelt among us—“A body You prepared for Me”—and said to the Father, “Take Me instead.” That was the trade.
The trade took place on a small outcropping of rock outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem. It was called Golgotha, the place of the skull. We know it as Calvary, the place of the cross. It was the reason Jesus was born.
Although this year is likely challenging for most of us in a variety of unique and exhausting ways, we already know how this story ultimately ends. There is a Hero – a Redeemer, Restorer, Rescuer. He has already won. It’s the best part of the story of our lives; the real blockbuster that needs to be shared. Let’s keep our eyes open to see Him working, and let’s give Him the rave reviews He deserves.
Father, God, thank you for loving us like You do – like no one else can or ever has. Thank you for your extraordinary gift of grace – that You sent your only Son on a mission to fully pay our debt of sin, and that by faith alone, You receive that payment on our behalf. It’s truly a miracle. It’s truly a rescue. Help us to be reminded daily of this Good News (especially in this difficult year) and give us joyful opportunities to share it and redeem 2020 as only You can. In Jesus’ name, Amen.