Today, some Valentine’s Day Monday Motivation –
Dylan shared today’s Our Daily Bread devotional, ‘The Power of Love.’ Click here to read it.
Our second devotional comes from what Joe shared at the 2020 Valentine’s Banquet:
Late last year (2019), I had the chance to read a fantastic book called Hidden Christmas by Pastor Timothy Keller.
Chapter 2 of this book dives in to the importance of the genealogy of Jesus. Keller spends some time focused on the fact that Matthew doesn’t start his Gospel with “once upon a time.” As he writes, “that is the way of fairy tales or legendary fantasy stories.” He starts with what? The genealogy of Jesus. Keller writes that this is critical because Matthew is grounding who Jesus Christ is…and what he does…in history, with a genealogy. In Matthew 1 we learn that Jesus is not a metaphor. He is real. This all happened.
Just before Peter Jackson released the first of his Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies in 2001, there were a number of articles by literary critics and other cultural elites lamenting the popular appeal of fantasies, myths, and legends. They were saying that so many of them promoted regressive views. In other words, modern people are supposed to be more realistic. We should realize that things are not black and white but grey, and happy endings are cruel because life is not like that.
One critic in the New Yorker magazine even wrote that to give into stories like Lord of the Rings “betrays a reluctance to face the finer shades of life that verges on the cowardly.”
So why does Hollywood keep recycling fairy tales, fantasy and super heroes? You might answer, well, it’s because people hunger for them. Okay then, again, why? I mean, the great fairy tales and legendary stories like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Excalibur”…none of those things really happened and they’re not factually true.
But…they seem to fulfill a set of longings in the human heart.
I would also add that some of the more realistic fiction and love stories that we watch in these days also reflect those longings in the human heart. Keller writes that deep in the human heart there are these realistic desires to experience the supernatural, go on great adventures, to escape death, to know love that we can never lose, to not age but live long enough to realize our creative dreams and maybe even to fly, and communicate with non-human beings and obviously, triumph over evil.
If the stories are well told, we find them incredibly moving and satisfying. Why is that? Keller argues it’s because even though we know that factually those stories didn’t happen, our hearts long for those things; and quite honestly, they scratch that itch.
Beauty and the Beast tells us that there’s a love that can break out of the beastliness that we have created for ourselves. Sleeping Beauty tells us we are in a kind of sleeping enchantment in there is a noble prince who can come and destroy it. We hear the stories, we see the stories, and they stir us because deep inside our hearts we believe or want to believe, that these things are true. Death should not be the end. We should not lose our loved ones. Evil should not triumph. Our heart senses that even though the stories themselves aren’t true, the underlying reality behind the stories somehow ought to be. But our minds say no and the critics say no…when you give yourself to fairy tales and you really believe in moral absolutes and the supernatural and the idea that we could live forever that’s not reality, and it’s cowardly to give yourself to it.
But then we come to the Christmas story. And at first glance The book of Matthew looks like the other legends. A story about someone from a different world who breaks into our world and has miraculous powers and can calm the storm and heal people and raise people from the dead. Then his enemies turn on him and he is put to death and it seems like all hope is over but finally he rises from the dead and saves everyone! We read that and we think: another great fairy tale. It looks like the Christmas story is just one more of those stories…
But Matthew does not start his Gospel with “Once upon a Time.” He says this is no fairytale. Jesus Christ is NOT just one more lovely story pointing to these underlying realities. Jesus IS the underlying reality to which all the stories point. Jesus has come from that eternal supernatural world that we sense is there; that our hearts know is there; even though our heads may say no. Keller writes, “at Christmas, Jesus punched a hole between the ideal and the real; the eternal and the temporal; and came into our world. That means if Matthew was right, there IS an evil sorcerer in this world and we ARE under enchantment; there IS a noble prince who has broken the enchantment, and there IS love from which we can never be parted and we WILL indeed fly someday and will defeat death; and in this world even as Psalms says, “the trees will dance and sing.”
1st John 4: 9-11puts it this way: “this is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
So Keller writes, even though we know that these fairy tales aren’t factually true, the truth of Jesus means all the stories we love are not escapism at all. In a sense, they will come true in Him.
The gospel means all the best stories will be proved in the ultimate sense, true!
Congratulations to Ron from Mount Vernon, who guessed correctly and wins a WNZR drawstring backpack!
Thanks for listening,
Joe and Dylan