I have just finished watching a movie (a dark thriller) called The Place Beyond the Pines. It was not what I expected, which was one of the reasons I liked it. I enjoy movies that keep you guessing and this one kept chopping and changing like nobody’s business. It was hard to second-guess it. Most films, especially the big blockbusters, have fairly predictable plots. And for a reason. It’s popular. People want certain kinds of stories. Mostly with happy endings. In Bedtime Stories a movie my daughter loves, Adam Sandler tells the kids he’s babysitting that in life there are no happy endings. And then of course the film does have a happy ending. In the film version of Blue Like Jazz Don Miller’s father tells him that life is like jazz. It never resolves. Which may be why we like our stories to have resolutions. And happy ones at that. They echo the longings buried deep within our core.
Our lives are more like The Place Beyond The Pines though – full of the unexpected. Characters come and go, situations don’t pan out as we expect or intend. We often get frustrated by the way we cannot control events or other people. So at least we can escape into stories. Often the same stories we’ve seen many times. It would be shocking if we were watching Titanic and this time the ship didn’t sink. or if Tom Hanks didn’t save private Ryan after all. (Apologies if I’ve just spoiled a couple of classics for you.)
In the Bible the writers promise time and again that life will one day resolve. And the shocking story of Christmas, with its unexpected prophet-shepherds and mysterious seer-kings, points to a future when there will be the kind of resolution we all long for. A time when there’ll be no Private Ryans needing saving, no tragedies at sea any more.We don’t necessarily think of the Biblical book of Daniel or Revelation during Advent and Christmas but the Bethlehem story is the first footprint in the journey to Daniel 7 and Revelation 21.
For now our lives may feel like that unresolved jazz, and the steady stream of news available to us reminds us of the intense pain in the world. But Christmas comes but once a year to remind us that the big story is still playing out. The promise of hope coming to us via a vulnerable baby bundled up in an animal trough may seem old fashioned – but then so is breathing. And that still works.
13 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone who looked like a man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence.
14 He was given authority, honour, and royal power over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.”