December 10, 2017
The Subtext of Christmas
Understanding the subtext of a character is vital to the work of an actor. The subtext is the character’s emotions, desires, and thoughts that underlie the lines written on the page. A playwright does not include these things in the script, so the actor has to discover them. In the same way, readers of Scripture need to think about and explore what underlies the text on the page to truly understand it and apply it to their lives.
Many of us approach the Christmas story without a firm grasp of the subtext of Christmas. Without knowing what the longing and desires of Israel were at the time, we don’t understand the power and significance of the birth of Christ. The subtext of Christmas is the longing of Israel for the end of their exile. Although they had returned to the Promised Land and rebuilt the temple, God had not yet returned to them. As long as the glory of the Lord was absent from the temple – as the prophet Ezekiel saw in his visions – the people were still in exile. The people of Israel longed for many things – freedom from Rome, a true priesthood, national sovereignty – but what they longed for most was the appearance of God’s glory. That is the subtext of Christmas, and why the birth of Christ is such a powerful, yet unexpected, moment.