December 24, 2015

Sea Sickness, Christmas, and the Gospel

Have you ever been sea-sick? I had an up-close-and-personal experience with it last Tuesday. No, alas, we haven’t been up on Lake Erie. But Tobey and I did go and see In the Heart of the Sea at the theatre Tuesday night – the fascinating (and mostly true) story of an 1820’s whaleship, stove and sunk by a giant sperm whale, and what became of the desperate crew. Having enjoyed Moby Dick, and having read briefly of this story which helped inspire Melville’s novel, I was excited to see the film. But, of course, the story takes place mostly at sea. And (rightly so) there is camera work to match – up, down, and around with the crashing of whale and waves. Indeed, in the mind of this amateur, the filming was really quite excellent.

But here’s the deal. Have you seen those home video’s where the dad is filming his kids? And the camera work is a little shaky? And then he whips around the room, following one kid and then another. It literally makes me nauseous – not the doting of the dad (which I get now!), but the here, there, and everywhere of the camera. And such, I suppose, is the nature of the cinematography when making a movie about a whaling vessel bead-butted by an 85 foot long whale! Great work! But not great for the faint of equilibrium! I had to give it up halfway through, and go read the movie’s Wikipedia page out in the hallway!

And what has all this to do with Christmas?

Well, it occurs to me that, on the surface of things, going on a whaling voyage seems quite exciting – romantic even. Leaving my own landlocked world, and venturing out onto the open seas? What an adventure it would be! But, while I’d like to think that my lightheadedness is only related to dizzying camera movements, what if I got out on the wide Pacific and found my head spinning for months on end? It’s not always, in other words, as romantic as it seems to leave one world and enter another – especially when that other world is tumultuous and distressing.

And so it is good to remember that, quaint as Christmas seems to us, entering into this sin-tossed world was not just an adventurous fling for Christ! He knew the troubled waters that lay ahead. He was not a naïve greenhorn, shoving off blithely onto this riotous sea! Indeed, He was full aware of the temptation and hardship He would face (and the blood He would spill) entering into the roiling waters of our planet. And yet He made the voyage just the same. And He withstood the waves, and the difficulty, and the opposition without losing His equilibrium for even a moment. “He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”* and He “endured the cross”* (for our sin) willingly, and without exiting the theatre because He couldn’t handle the drama. He held fast through all the storm, all the sickness, all the blood, and all the sin of this world … for me and my salvation. And for everyone who will call upon His name, each of you friends and family inclusive.

So do enjoy the quaint of Christmas! I certainly will! But remember, too, that, for Jesus, the incarnation was not just a romantic adventure – but a commitment to 33 years on an open and unfriendly sea. And marvel that He came to begin with – and that, unlike yours truly, He stayed on until the end – battered, broken, but unstained … and finally victorious. Marvel. And believe. For “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”*

And, on behalf of the Cincinnati Strassners … Merry Christmas!

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