Harry Potter and the Incarnate ChristArts, Culture, Featured, Film — By Bert Montgomery on December 17, 2011 at 5:00 am
I love great fantasy/adventure tales, especially ones in which ordinary people in ordinary places find an escape, or rather a hidden entrance, into another world where anything is possible.
In the Harry Potter stories – my personal favorite – children run through a brick wall in London’s subway system, between platforms 9 and 10 (platform 9¾ to be exact) and begin their journey to Hogwarts, a world filled of mystery, magic, and life and death battles between love … and power.
This Advent season, there’s another grand story of adventure and mystery being told. But, it’s a little bit different. In this other story, no one escapes from our world into some other realm.
Instead … some other realm breaks into and takes up residence here in the normal, ordinary, real world in which we live. The Eternal One breaks into our time and space, takes on our flesh and blood, and brings adventure and life to us.
Mary, a young teenage girl, has just been informed by her father of her upcoming marriage to some man named Joseph, a carpenter, and she is trying to digest this information. After all, she sort of had her eyes set on Hezekiah – that freewheeling bohemian boy down the street that plays psychedelic music on the lyre.
But, that’s not the way life is: everyone knows parents arrange for you to marry some man you’ve probably never even met before, and that’s just the way it is… some things will never change …
So Mary sighs deeply, kisses her parents goodnight, and goes to the kitchen, grabs a Moon Pie and RC Cola, and then settles in on the couch to watch reruns of I Love Lucy on late night TV.
All the lights are off – leaving only the glow from the TV screen – and all of a sudden, right there in front of her face, appearing out of nowhere, is some sort of man, a strange man, if he’s even human at all!
Mary’s chokes briefly on her RC and sits up straight in shock, unable to find her voice – she’s trying to yell for her dad, but nothing is coming out.
Then this glowing, radiant being speaks: “Hello, you blessed one! THE LORD IS WITH YOU!”
This thing tells her she’s going to become pregnant, give birth to a baby boy, name him Jesus, and he will rule forever.
There’s stunned silence for a moment. Mary begins looking around suspiciously to see if this is some kind of prank. She finds no strings, no mirrors, no projector, no other people around…
She reaches out to touch this being… this messenger… this angel?!… And, she falls back onto the couch and yells, “That’s impossible! I ain’t even married yet!” (Back then they didn’t bother sending young girls to school to learn proper English).
The angelic being explains about the Holy Spirit passing over her, and that her child will be called “God’s Son.” Nothing, you see, is impossible with God!
And Mary, overwhelmed but aware that she is in the presence of a messenger from God, sighs and says, “Allrighty then, I am the Lord’s servant. So let it be.”
And, in a flash, the messenger is gone, leaving Mary alone again with her RC and Moon Pie and I Love Lucy on the TV.
The adventure begins – right here in THIS world, the real world of jobs, families, dirty diapers, schools, bills, taxes, governments, crooks, betrayals, birth and death, diseases and so on. For Mary, this adventure means being cast in a highly suspicious role as an unmarried pregnant girl; and the mother of a child who grows up to be executed as a criminal.
We too often approach Christmas like we approach movies – a beautiful story to be retold and enjoyed year after year; but then the story ends and we walk out of the theater (I mean the sanctuary) and return to our ordinary lives in the real world.
Maybe if as Christians we’d spend a little less time waiting for Jesus to come to take us out of this world and a little more time looking for the Incarnate Christ living in our world, the Christmas story will cease to be merely a feel-good illuminated cheap plastic lawn decoration and become a life-changing adventure as an agent of God’s grace in a world sorely needing it.
It’s the adventure of loving the world as God so loves the world. It’s the adventure of loving the people God so loves. Like Mary before us, it’s actively participating with God in this great adventure filled holy mystery and life and death battles between love … and power.