We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:16
We love our fairy tales. I grew up knowing by heart the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. My kids have grown up knowing by heart the stories of Beauty and the Beast, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Princess Bride, Shrek, and The Lord of the Rings.
FAIRY TALE HAPPY ENDINGS
But why do we love fairy tales when they are so unrealistic? In the real world there are villains, perils, and imminent defeat, just like in fairy tales, but things don’t always end wonderfully in the real world. In the real world relationships that break apart sometimes stay broken, people who die stay dead, sin and problems cling to us without letting go, and not all tragedies end in triumph. Perhaps we love fairy tales because we want to believe, against all hope, that good really does overcome evil in the end, that the oppressed end up winners, and that people do live happily ever after. But isn’t such longing pointless?
The Christmas story sounds like a fairy tale. There are people who need rescuing—a world full of sinners. Things look hopeless. Defeat seems certain. But then a hero comes; God comes to earth as one of his creatures. He fights off one temptation after another. He finally reaches the last battlefield—the cross. There, in amazing love, he lays down his life to rescue the rebels who did not love him. Then he defeats the final enemy, death. In the brilliant glory of the empty tomb, he gives his people peace on earth through the forgiveness of sins. He promises eternal life and ultimate, glorious, eternal victory to those who believe.
A CHRISTMAS STORY HAPPY ENDING
But Luke doesn’t introduce the Christmas story with “Once upon a time . . .” He places the story of Jesus’ birth squarely in recorded history. Peter won’t let us mistake it for a fairy tale either. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The most amazing, wonderful story of all really happened—and we are in it!
We know that, just like in Beauty and the Beast, our beautiful Savior loves us even though we are antagonistic brutes toward him. Just like in The Lord of the Rings, we have someone who carried a greater evil for us, our sin, and finally destroyed the power of death and hell. Just like in Sleeping Beauty, a wonderful prince, the Prince of peace, has given us the kiss of his redeeming love and broken the curse of sin, and now we sleep in spiritual death no more. Just like in Cinderella, we have been brought from our lowly state into the glory of being the bride of Christ, his cherished church. Just like in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, God has caused our hearts to swell with love because we have heard the angels sing of his love for us. Just like in all the fairy tales, we now live happily ever after.
So go ahead and enjoy your favorite fairy tales. In fact, enjoy them even more because what they make you long for—true love, rescue, misery turned to happiness-ever-after—is what the Christmas story is all about, with one wonderful difference: The Christmas story is no fairy tale.
Contributing editor Norman Burger is pastor at Shepherd of the Hills, Lansing, Michigan.