At the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, our heroes Frodo and Sam successfully destroy the Ring, but find themselves on the erupting Mount Doom, expecting to die:
‘I am glad that you are here with me,’ said Frodo. ‘Here at the end of all things, Sam…it’s like things are in the world. Hopes fail. An end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.’
Then against all odds, Gandalf himself appears out of the sky with giant eagles to rescue them.
We are familiar with this type of scene where an unexpected person or event solves a hopeless situation. There’s even a name for it—Deus ex Machina, literally “a god from a machine”. It is often seen as a lazy plot device used to get characters out of impossible situations. A cheap way to find an easy ending.
Other examples can be found in Jurassic Park when a T-Rex comes out of nowhere to save the characters from the velociraptors at the Visitor’s Centre. In Avatar, the indigenous Na’vi are about to lose a battle but are suddenly rescued by the planet’s wildlife sent by Eywa. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Faux the Phoenix flies into the chamber to save the day by bringing Harry magic tears and the Sword of Gryffindor hidden in a hat.
I used to hate these types of endings too. I used to agree that they just seem too easy and cheap.
Until I realized I had fallen into the trap. Of thinking like this world.
This world teaches us to look within ourselves to find the “hero” who can handle all situations good and bad. We are taught to pull ourselves by our bootstraps and help ourselves through willpower and positive thinking.
But that’s a false hope.
If nothing else, this past year has opened many people’s eyes around the world to suffering, pain, and hopelessness. We are heading into the darkest part of the year after exhausting months in a pandemic. Especially during this holiday season, people are lost in their anxiety, feeling lonelier than ever. We are all so tired.
It’s time to look outside ourselves for true hope. To look and see that in our toughest circumstances when things feel impossible, someone came for us. Someone unexpected. A baby. A vulnerable human baby quietly born in a no-name place many years ago. It is this baby who would grow up to do what no other human being in all of history could do. He would live a perfect, obedient life. And He would lay down His life to save us in the only way that truly matters. Because He is also God Himself who created all things and loved us even before we knew Him. Before we knew that He alone can save.
So, this Christmas when we watch a movie or read a story that ends with a Deus ex Machina, instead of thinking it a cheap ending, we can give praise and thanks that in our own lives, the ultimate Deus ex Machina happened. That the true God Himself came in the most unexpected way to save us in the midst of all circumstances.
Have a very Merry Christmas from your friends at Sunergo.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).