Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can look right at a thing and still not
see it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that. “Man if that’d a been a
snake it’d bit me.”
Sometimes we don’t see it because things aren’t as they should be.
Incongruence can keep you from seeing.
I saw a video of a virtuoso violinist playing in the subway as people filed by her
without so much as giving a nod of approval. The video would cut to scenes of
her concerts where thousands of people crowded together to watch her perform.
Then it was back to the subway where a woman sat on a nearby bench
immersed in her IPhone within arms reach of the beautiful instrumentalist.
Seconds later the scene switched again and the violinist dancing across the
stage; then it cut to adoring fans weeping at the opportunity to touch her or have
something signed. Suddenly we are back in the subway where the violinist, clad
in a sweatshirt is playing this extraordinary piece without the slightest
acknowledgement from the busy travelers. Its as if she doesn’t exist.
Why do people ignore a premier musician in a subway, but pay ridiculous
amounts to sit in the nosebleed section and watch her perform?
The answer of course is incongruence.
We are hopelessly naïve when it comes to significance. We always assume that
when you see an eagle’s nest that the bird sitting in it must be an eagle. When
you see a crows nest it must contain a crow. We fail to understand that
sometimes crows will sit in an eagle’s nest and eagles will sometimes inhabit the
trappings of the crow.
That’s why people of pomp tend to flaunt their significance. They don’t want to
take a chance that you might miss it.
I once read that when Queen Elizabeth II visited the United States that reporters
took a special interest in the logistics. They loved to point out that she traveled
with four thousand pounds of luggage. I read that and thought, “Oh her poor
husband.” Queen Elizabeth’s baggage included two outfits for every occasion, a
mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and a white kid
leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets,
and a host of other attendants. A brief visit of royalty to a foreign country can
easily cost twenty million dollars!1
Contrast that to Jesus. When God came to visit he didn’t bring a thing. He
showed up in his birthday suit and had to borrow a diaper from his brand new
Luke 2: 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and
laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Ironically the incarnation was so unlike how we would suppose God might visit
earth that nearly everyone missed it. Look at your nativity set. The crowd of
early attenders is remarkably small, a handful of shepherds, Mary and Joseph,
the Magi, a couple of angles, and some livestock.
Why weren’t more people there?
Incongruence. This isn’t how kings arrive. This is a virtuoso violinist in a
subway. This is an eagle in a crow’s nest.
Two thousand years have come and gone and nobody before or since has had a
greater impact on the course of civilization than this singular life. History is
literally divided by his birth.
And yet, even now, so many look but never see, blinded by incongruence.
1 Phil Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.