Christmastime brings a great reminder of one of the most impactful story elements: surprise.
C.S. Lewis loved the term sehnsucht. The German word has no English equivalent. Roughly, it means a longing “to find the place where all beauty came from.” It’s a deep longing for home, or what ought to be home. We often fail to recognize it. Even when we do, we aren’t quite sure what to do with it.
But … sometimes amid the humdrum of life, we get jolted with a tiny preview of heaven. A spectacular mountain sunset. A newborn baby. Viewing a great work of art. Feeling hope that the Cubs may actually win the World Series in my lifetime. They’re glimpses … like watching a too-short trailer for a great movie we’re anticipating.
Now imagine what those shepherds in Bethlehem must have experienced. First one angel appears with the best news ever reported. Then the armies of heaven – a multitude of angels – show up to celebrate. The shepherds received more than a fleeting glimpse of home; they got more than they could comprehend. That night, heaven unmistakably showed up.
John 1:14 talks about the Word, Jesus, coming to live among us, moving into the neighborhood. That’s happening today in every mission work we write about – even if we can’t see armies of celebrating angels. It’s a matter of identifying those glimpses and how they impact people, neighborhoods, communities. God loves to surprise people. Find one of those stories and tell it well – through the eyes of the person experiencing it – and you’ve illustrated John 1:14.
The video below has received more than 45 million hits since 2010, so chances are you’ve seen it. It’s worth watching again through the eyes of a journalist. Note the bystanders’ faces. That’s the power of surprise – of God breaking into the mundane. It’s a glimpse of home.