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Leaving the Shire

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matt 1:23 KJV

J.R.R. Tolkien in his book, The Lord of the Rings, spins a tale of a little hobbit, overlooked for his size, who accomplishes incredible feats of bravery. Frodo Baggins is chosen by the good wizard Gandalf to carry a magical ring to the Cracks of Doom to be destroyed in the very flames from which it was forged. The little hobbit journeys in the company of his fellow hobbits, Sam, Merry, and Pippin on a dangerous journey that proves successful in saving Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron. To do this, Frodo and his friends must leave their beloved Shire to save Middle Earth.

The Shire, in Tolkien’s writings, was a small but beautiful land, fruitful and treasured by its inhabitants. Homes with flower boxes filled with colorful blooms, and round doors leading into the sides of grassy mounds, the countryside was a picture of tranquility. Green rolling hills dotted with quaint villages the Shire was a paradise for its small citizens. The Hobbits deeply valued their privacy and simple lives.

For Frodo, all of this was interrupted by Gandalf the Great. The little Hobbit was asked to give up the beauty of the Shire to enter a dangerous world and risk death to rescue the inhabitants of Middle Earth. It is a story rich with the theme of a redemptive hero, who though overlooked, yet achieves the incredible, the destruction of the Ring and the saving of mankind.

There are times when a man will hide his wealth. He may appear as a pauper and really be a prince. When Jesus grew up in Nazareth there was nothing to indicate that he was anything other than an ordinary boy. As a young man, he labored in a humble trade in the small town of Nazareth. His family was of average means. However, hidden from the view of family and friends, Jesus was the God who created all things being eternal with the Father. He came from riches unimaginable to rags painfully apparent as He lived in relative obscurity for the first 30 years of his life.

It is impossible for us to comprehend the glory of Jesus’ habitation before He showed up in Bethlehem. His riches were immeasurable and his glory beyond the brilliance of all created things. It was the ultimate shock of the stage of heaven, when in the manger long ago, earth heard His first cry. Tolkien casts the little Hobbit as a type of Christ, born in humble theater, willing to leave the Shire to destroy that which would eventually destroy mankind.

Consider God’s great Protagonist, who gave up the wealth of heaven to live in the rags of poverty to redeem us from our spiritual destitution. Open your heart to the possibility of a truth that sets heaven and earth’s stage on fire with the passion of God Himself. Theologians call it the incarnation. We rejoice to call it, God with us, Emmanuel.


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