The Condescension of God

One does not have to look far during the Christmas season to find images of Christ’s birth: an idyllic scene full of hay, a smiling Mary and Joseph, three wise men with gifts, and friendly looking animals, all surrounding a peacefully sleeping Jesus. This is an amazing image: a king, not coming in power and with a sword, but in abject poverty and humility.

At the core of Christmas we celebrate the great condescension of God himself. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” and again in Philippians 2:6b-8, “Though he [Christ] was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” The classic manger scene is a beautiful picture of the humiliation and hope of Christ’s life intertwined: the suffering and death and, ultimately, resurrection in victory.

Whenever reading the account of our Lord’s birth today, let us do so in the context of what a recently imprisoned Chinese pastor said, “The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him” (Wang Yi, 2018). If in the beauty of the human birth of our Lord we see the depth of his humility, and how he would go on to even greater and more painful sacrifices out of love, then only can we truly begin to grasp the magnitude of that peaceful manger scene and respond as Zechariah did:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people. For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us. He has done this to […] remember his holy covenant -the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham. This oath grants that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, may serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live.” (Luke 1:68-75)

Merry Christmas!

My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience -Wang Yi

Arrow: A Straight Shot

Arrow_header_imageOliver Queen is a billionaire playboy…and not much else, at least until after he is stranded on an island for 5 years and endures unimaginable horrors. While this premise sounds overtly cliche given the recent gamut of hero movies, Arrow is a superhero show that goes far beyond it’s cliche origin story to take a deep look at the lives of heroes and bystanders alike and how they live out their lives. This review will mainly focus on the story and character aspects of the show since these areas are the predominate draw, although the special effects are well done as well.

The story of Arrow addresses many of the issues that I have had with the superhero genre over the past several years. What is the difference between a cold blooded murderer and a vigilante who is, under the pretext of justice, also killing? Isn’t it odd that within weeks of the return of a lost billionaire a masked crusader is on the streets with hi-tech gear? The screenwriters raise issues like these throughout the entire first season, and the fact that the writers address these inherent problems with the superhero genre makes the show all the more compelling. Also, the plot is not a predictable story progression-the writers have a very definite plan that is apparent after having watched the show.

Arrow2Another aspect of the show that is engaging are the various characters. Many of them are aggravating and annoying-just like real people can be sometimes, but in the end the good guys pull together to stop evil. Many of the characters are realistically portrayed with problems such as addiction, workaholism, willingness to kill, selfishness, etc. etc. Far from being a negative to the show, each character becomes more relatable as the seasons (there are now 3) progress. The show is about broken, messed-up people trying to help each other and those around them. While the message of the show is inherently man-centered given its genre, the realism of the characters and their struggle, given how accurately it mirrors the struggle of many people today, is a telling reminder of man’s need for a real Savior.

If you are looking for a show where you can watch and come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling, this is probably not for you, but if you enjoy watching people mature and change, if you like seeing people who you may hate at times trying to do right, then this show can be very engaging and intriguing. The writers of Arrow understood one very important principle: superhero stories are not about the hero, but about people and their everyday lives – people who need to be saved not only from outside threats, but also from themselves. Arrow offers a gritty and engaging alternative storyline and cast of characters for those seeking entertainment that goes beyond the big explosions and eye candy that Hollywood has put out in recent years.