I have always been one for fairy tales and legends. They have this way of capturing my imagination and touch my heart in a way. Even to this day, I am still fond of them. Over Christmas I sat down with my niece and watched Snow White. She left after about 20 minutes because she got bored but I continued watching, because I love the idea behind it. A princess who is sentenced to death because she is prettier than the Queen. She fortunately befriends 7 small men – seemingly very rich men by the size of the diamonds they are mining! She is then nabbed by the Queen and falls into a deep sleep, but alas! The day is saved by a dashingly charming Prince who saves her and they ride off into the sunset. Why do we like this sort of story?
Why do we cling to this idea that there is such a thing as a ‘happily ever after’?
I believe it is because deep in the human heart there are these desires – to experience the supernatural, to escape death, to know a love that we can never lose, to not age but live long enough to realise our creative dreams, to fly, to communicate with non-human beings and to ultimately triumph over evil. Even though these stories factually didn’t happen, our hearts long for these things. And when these stories are done well, they satisfy these desires. They scratch that terrible itch.
One movie that I have not seen however, is the original Beauty and the Beast. I don’t know why I haven’t, I just didn’t. Perhaps I did watch it when I was young, but just can’t remember. Anyway, that is beside the point!
I decided to watch the remake version, the one that has Hermione Granger in it. She seemed to be unhappy in her situation, she had some guy who wouldn’t leave her alone because he wanted to marry her. Then we switch to the other main character- the dreaded beast. Who actually wasn’t that dreadful at all, he just wanted to be loved…didn’t he? What I learned from this story was (besides enjoying talking clocks and singing wardrobes), that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. It doesn’t matter what we look like externally, it is an internal matter, this is what ultimately sweeps Belle off her feet. She see’s past the beasts…beastliness as it were.
I think more crucially, almost as an overarching theme throughout the film, was that there is this love that can break us out of the beastliness that we have created for ourselves. This was the case for the prince of course, but we enjoy that idea that one day we will be covered by this inexplicable love that will satisfy the longings of our heart. Where does this come from?
Now if we were to look at the story of Jesus and his birth for example. At first glance, it looks like another one of those stories. It is a story about someone from a different world who breaks into ours. He has these amazing powers; he can calm storms, turn water into wine, heal people and raise people from the dead! This is an awesome story! However, this isn’t a ‘once upon a time’ story. Matthew’s Gospel does something different. He grounds Jesus in history. He says this is not a fairy tale. Jesus is the story, to which all the stories point. Jesus comes from that eternal, supernatural world that we sense is there, the world that our hearts know is there, but our heads say absolutely not!
Jesus punched a hole between the ideal and the real, the eternal and the temporal, and came into our world. If Matthew is right about this, that there is some evil sorcerer in this world, and we have somehow fallen under the enchantment, and there is a noble prince who has broken the enchantment, and there is a love from which we will never be parted from. And one day we will fly, and we will defeat death. One day even the trees are going to sing and dance. Check out Psalm 65:13 if you don’t believe me!
The Gospel, because it is a true story, means all the best stories will be proved, ultimately true. So, enjoy these stories, use your imagination and escape to that reality, because it is that reality that we will one day find ourselves immersed in. The longings of our hearts are ultimately found in Jesus.