I don’t have any pictures of my grandfather.
All I have is images in my head. Like the time when he cut his hand really bad while sharpening a lawn mower blade. Or the time when he cut his face while he was putting tree limbs on the back of his old Datsun pick-up truck. There is blood in both scenes. But no tears. He barely flinched.
There are also the stories he told me from his time in the south Pacific during World War II. The nights in trenches when he was too afraid to sleep because he didn’t trust the guy who was on guard duty. And the time when his intuition payed off and he killed an enemy soldier who was creeping up behind the sleeping night watchman. Again, no pictures.
Most people my age don’t have very many pictures of their grandparents. Sure, there’s the occasional family portrait. But no action shots. I guess our grandparents were too busy with all of the action to stop and take pictures of themselves.
Several days ago we learned that selfie was named the word of the year for 2013. Scroll through your news feed and you’ll see why. People love to take pictures of themselves. And maybe that would be okay if those people were standing next to Big Foot. Or even with a few friends. But they never are. They’re sitting in their car. Or standing in front of the mirror. And in almost every picture the girls have their lips puffed out. The guys usually look like they were given a wedgie at the exact moment the picture was taken.
Selfies aren’t confined to bathroom mirrors and automobiles. They’ve even become the norm at funerals. There was once space on the Internet devoted to such a thing. Earlier this week, world leaders did it as they mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela.
All of these pictures come together to form a collage. A collage where selfie is probably the most appropriate term for a generation that wants the world to know that they have arrived. A generation that wants to be seen. And remembered.
All of this stands in contrast to a not so silent night in Bethlehem. Joseph and his young wife were in a stable. Shepherds wouldn’t come until later. It would take even longer for the wise men to arrive. The animals and the sounds and smells that accompany them were there. For the moment, that was it.
And then came the Christ child.
He could have come at anytime. Halftime of the Super Bowl. Or the year when selfies were all the rage. Imagine the publicity.
But instead, God ordained that his Son would be born as a man in a time when there were no cameras. In a town where there was no room for an expecting couple. In a kingdom where there was no room for the real King.
The adoration eventually came when an army of angels disturbed the peace of a silent night to tell some shepherds that a Savior had been born. And later on, those wise men would reach their destination and worship the King in person. All while an evil ruler was trying to kill him.
2000 years have passed. And we don’t have any pictures of that night. But we carry the images in our heads. Believers carry the message and its impact in their hearts. That’s usually how it works with the really important events.
One day, after our smart phones all die and the digital universe gets wiped clean, the pictures will be gone. And we won’t care too much about the picture we took of ourselves in front of a mirror or at a funeral.
One day, either as an act of worship or defeat, every knee will bow before Christ the Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).
The one who came to save us.