I’ve never seen the Sound of Music.
I don’t quite know how it happened – I just seem to have gotten through childhood without that particular formative experience. Many, many people have looked at me with horror and pity at this disclosure – like I’ve just told them I have a fake nose and therefore chocolate tastes like rice cakes.
I feel like I get the gist of the story. People have quoted lines to me, I’ve seen it referenced on skit shows. I somehow know all the words to “Doe a deer” and “So long, farewell”. I’ve even looked on the Wikipedia page to get a gist of the storyline. But I’ve never encountered the real deal, and I think I’ve realised I need to do something about that.
Loads of people are like this with Jesus. Jesus is, probably, the most culturally significant human being ever to live. He is the subject of more songs and the muse of more art than anyone ever. But he’s not just the interest of cultural elites. Something in the order of a third of the world’s population today consider him to be the most important person in their lives.
Yet for most Canberrans, their experience of him is second or third hand. Jesus is quoted, referenced, refracted for us, but we’ve never experienced the real deal.
Can I make a pitch for you to do something about that?
The story of Jesus is really a love story. It’s a story of love in hard places.
This story goes that Jesus is the God of the universe. Not one existent atom is present in the cosmos without Jesus’ direct involvement in its creation. And this God set his affection on a particular pile of atoms we call the earth.
But the people of this planet rejected his love, the Bible calls this sin. We cut ourselves off from the author of life. The effect of this is that we’re all powering down. We’re like your phone without a power cord – ticking down toward zero battery. As soon as we’re born we start dying. And we’re so used to this pattern that we’ve forgotten what a tragedy it really is. Death has become to us “natural” rather than an intruder in life.
But God was not content with this. He didn’t think, “Well, they deserve what they get.” That’s why this is a love story. God loves his world and his people so much that he wasn’t prepared to let us be destroyed by our rejection of him; of life and love. That’s where Jesus comes in.
God stepped through the screen and out into the world. As Jesus entered, God was putting his foot down in human history. He invites us to poke and prod, to glare at him and see what drives him. He came as a Jewish carpenter and travelling teacher from Palestine 2000 years ago. As he walked the earth he gave us a glimpse of what life “plugged in” would look like.
And then in an astonishing act of self-giving love – he died. In his death he absorbs our rejection, our lovelessness, our brokenness in himself. Crucified on a Roman cross he substitutes himself for us. Our brokenness for his wholeness. Our sinful record for his faultless record.
And, as if that weren’t enough – the most amazing part of this story is that his love overcame the tomb. Jesus defeated death, signalling that he can defeat our death. That one day we can live lives of love in the world made aright.
This story, Christians call it the Gospel. It promises forgiveness and reconciliation and the hope of repair. It’s a story that can put wind in your sails and a new Spirit in your heart as you face life’s difficulties in the meantime. It’s a story that knits you into a believing community.
But best of all – it’s a true story.