Tim Keller on Hidden Christmas

A meditation to inspire your Christmas celebrations!

“…deep in the human heart there are these desires—to experience the supernatural, to escape death, to know love that we can never lose, to not age but live long enough to realize our creative dreams, to fly, to communicate with nonhuman beings, to triumph over evil. If the fantasy stories are well told, we find them incredibly moving and satisfying. Why?

It is because, even though we know that factually the stories didn’t happen, our hearts long for these things, and a well-told story momentarily satisfies these desires, scratching the terrible itch.

“Beauty and the Beast” tells us there’s a love that can break us out of the beastliness that we have created for ourselves. “Sleeping Beauty” tells us we are in a kind of sleeping enchantment and there is a noble prince who can come and destroy it. We hear these stories and they stir us, because deep inside our hearts believe, or want to believe, that these things are true. Death should not be the end. We should not lose our loved ones. Evil should not triumph. Our hearts sense that even though the stories themselves aren’t true, the underlying realities behind the stories are somehow true or ought to be…

Then we come to the Christmas story. And at first glance it looks like the other legends. Here is a story about someone from a different world who breaks into ours and has miraculous powers, and can calm the storm and heal people and raise people from the dead. Then his enemies turn on him, and he is put to death, and it seems like all hope is over, but finally he rises from the dead and saves everyone.

We read that and we think, Another great fairy tale! Indeed, it looks like the Christmas story is one more story pointing to these underlying realities. But Matthew’s Gospel refutes that by grounding Jesus in history, not “once upon a time.” He says this is no fairy tale. Jesus Christ is not one more lovely story pointing to these underlying realities—Jesus is the underlying reality to which all the stories point…

If Matthew is right, that there is an evil sorcerer in this world, and we are under enchantment, and there is a noble prince who has broken the enchantment, and there is a love from which we will never be parted. And we will indeed fly someday, and we will defeat death, and in this world, now “red in tooth and claw,” someday even the trees are going to dance and sing (Psalm 65:13, 96:11–13)…

There is a scene in the movie Hook where Maggie Smith plays an elderly Wendy from the Peter Pan story. She addresses Robin Williams, a grown-up Peter Pan who has amnesia. He is amused by the stories Wendy tells his children, but at one point she stares right at him and says: “Peter, the stories are true.”

If Christmas really happened, it means the whole human race has amnesia, but the tales we love most aren’t really just entertaining escapism. The Gospel, because it is a true story, means all the best stories will be proved, in the ultimate sense, true.”

– from Hidden Christmas, by Tim Keller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.