Christmas: When God Came Near
By Ed Delph
December 20, 2021
Let me introduce you to a friend of mine, Dr. Ted Baehr. He is the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Movieguide and is a respected movie critic. Dr. Baehr comes from a Hollywood family. Both his father and his grandfather starred in major movies and television series.
Last November, I heard Dr. Baehr speak about the components required for a great movie or book. Here’s a summary of what he shared with the audience. Read on. You will like this.
First, you need a premise. The premise is the idea behind the movie or book. The premise is "Where you're going and why you're going there. You give a premise and then fulfill the premise." Then you need a plot. The plot is, "How you're going to get there." The plot is the vehicle to communicate the idea or premise. And the process of arriving at the premises should be painful or challenging.
The plot consists of characters, dialogue, themes, and the setting or backdrop of the movie or book. Characters are "Who goes there and whom they meet." Themes are the interactions between characters along the way that meet. The setting is where the plot happens and includes both music and spectacle. And, a good movie, a story, or a book, always has a starting point and an ending point.
Being a writer of sorts, I thought about Dr. Baehr’s speech. And by the time you read this article, it will be Christmas week. So, let’s apply those elements to the first Christmas for your Christmas Eve enjoyment.
Talk about intrigue. The first Christmas was full of possibilities for a full-length drama. The first Christmas was the stuff that movie directors and producers scan the horizon for. Only this time, there was no fantasy but plenty of spectacles. It was for real, for all people, for all time. This time, the author, director, and producer is God, the Great I Am, The Lord of all creation.
Consider the setting and backdrop. The times were tough. The dark night and straggling confusion added to the drama. The oppressive Roman government decreed that everyone in Israel return home to their birth cities for tax registration. Most likely, that would mean higher taxes. So, the roads were filled with people going to and from their birth cities. There was bedlam in Bethlehem. And there was no room in Bethlehem’s numerous inns.
The characters were angels from heaven who introduced a new hit song to shepherds on the side of a hill at night. That was impressive. But it only gets better. One very pregnant teenager and her betrothed who had never had sex were journeying to his birthplace called Bethlehem. There would be consequences of the worst sort from Rome if they didn’t. To top it all off, she was getting ready to deliver the child, and the donkey on which she rode didn’t come with shock absorbers. When they finally arrived, the expectant mother was in labor, and the only place in Bethlehem for them to stay was in a stable.
Now the stage was set, the starting point was established, the angels' spectacle was over the top, and the music concert, although numerically small, was heavenly. Amid this drama, the main character Jesus was born. Now all is calm, and all is bright. There was a brief pause for us to catch our breath. But unthinkable events and characters are on their way.
Enter the good guys (magi from the east) and the villain (Herod). You know the story. Kings from the east came to Jerusalem, led by a star so bright that you couldn't miss it. They asked, “Where is the King of the Jews, that we may worship him?” King Herod and all of Jerusalem panicked. What does this mean?
At Herod’s request, the Jewish chief priests looked at Scripture prophesy and determined the birthplace of Christ was Bethlehem. Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem and asked them to inform him when they found Jesus, so He could also worship. Sure enough, the star reappeared and led them to the Christ-child. They gave him gifts fit for a king. After that, the Magi were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod.
Then God’s angel appears to Joseph and says, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child and wants to kill him." So Joseph did as he was told.
When Herod realized the Magi had not reported to him, he flew into a rage. Herod ordered the murder of every little boy in the Bethlehem area, two years old and under. The ending point of the first Christmas story was when God’s angel appeared to Joseph again announcing that Herod was dead and for him to re-enter Israel.
The first Christmas was better than the first time you saw Star Wars, Titanic, or Avatar. The first Christmas has all the elements that Dr. Baehr mentioned. But what is the premise behind the first Christmas? Why did God create, write, direct, and produce this spectacle of spectacles? And now that God has or should have our attention, what is God trying to reveal to us? I think there are three crucial premises or revelations in the First Christmas.
First, God reveals to us that sin separates us from God and each other. Sin is just missing God's best for us. When our desires lead us, we don't make things better, we make them worse. We get stuck, "…in sin and error pining." God doesn't want us separated from Himself or each other.
Second, God reveals to us, "Here is what you look like and what you do, without Me. You become a type of Herod.” Herod types range from mild to wild. Wild Herod types will do anything to be in control, even killing young children or anything that has to do with God. Hubris-driven Herod types want it all and they want it now. Self-sufficient mild Herod types just say no to God.
Last and most important, God says, “We don’t have to be separated. I came to earth as a child to reveal Myself, so you know what I’m like. The Christ-child is the way for you to rejoin Me." There is a way back to God, and that is through God Himself. You don’t have to be a frightened Herod. You can be like the wise men who were joined to God and each other.
So, there you go, why not have your first Christmas this Christmas by receiving Christ into your heart? God just came near to you.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com