You’ve probably seen the heart-warming video recently made by the BBC of Adele attending an Adele impersonation competition. The most hilarious, and touching, part of the video is the moment of realisation on the other contestants’ faces when the real Adele steps on stage, opens her mouth, and sings. Some of them are shocked, some are overwhelmed, and others stare blankly in disbelief.
Beyond being an entertaining stunt, the video is a beautiful analogy for the Incarnation – God becoming man at Christmas. Just like the Adele wannabees want to be like Adele, so we try to be like God – but only ever muck it up. Humanity, made in the image of God, are like performers forever trying to perfect the lines He gave us, but always failing. We are impersonator singers always trying to sing the song we were made to sing, yet only ever hitting the wrong notes.
The songwriter comes and sings his song, and in his perfection casts light on all our imperfect attempts at copying Him.
Christmas is the story of Christ, the Word made flesh, stepping into our midst, among us who are failing impersonators. Like Adele walking among her lookalikes, so Christ walks among us. He steps onto the stage and shows us the perfect life, allowing us to glimpse God’s original design for mankind. The songwriter comes and sings his song, and in his perfection casts light on all our imperfect attempts at copying Him. But, more than that, He offers to take us by the hand and lead us into the life we should have led, but couldn’t; in His grace, He becomes our vocal instructor, enabling us to hit the notes we were made to sing.
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, writes that “God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you into one.” This is the unimaginable gift of grace – that through Christ, God looks on us, the flawed, imposter singers, as if we were like Christ, the original thing. He loves us as he loves his Son, because when God became man, he stood in our place to lead the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died.
This is the ridiculous, scandalous story of Christmas – that God writes Himself into the story of this world, making himself a character in its pages, so that we, his creations, can enter into relationship with the Author. It is as if Shakespeare wrote himself into Hamlet so that Hamlet could know the mind of his creator. It is like Adele entering into the impersonation contest so that the competitors can meet the real person.
But, just as some of the other contestants could not believe that the Adele in front of them was the real Adele, so it is that mankind, in seeing the perfect Man, still rejects him. The hope of Christmas – that God would enter the narrative to befriend us, his characters – is bound up in tragedy. Humanity will reject her Saviour. Though the world was made through the Author, the characters do not recognise Him when he steps into its pages. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
For those of us who believe that Christ is truly God, he offers a hand of peace and eternal life, to be drawn up into a relationship with the Author. But that comes at a cost. Just as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, men spat at him and accused him and shouted him down as a madman, so it is today for our brothers and sisters living in the toughest places to be a Christian. They have met the Writer of the story and found life, but, meeting with the other characters who do not believe, they face unimaginable hostility.
This Christmas, then, we have a reason to celebrate – to celebrate God made man, the Writer stepping into His story to draw us, the characters, to Himself. But we also stand with our brothers and sisters – those who face accusation, torture and death because they have accepted the scandalous message of grace. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Use this Christmas to rejoice with our family in their joy, to mourn with them in pain, and most of all, to pray for them and stand by them in suffering.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.