Superman has been and continues to be my favorite superhero of all time. As a child, I would put a Superman costume on underneath my church clothes (back when you had to dress up for church) in the event, say, I had to stop an asteroid from slamming into our church building at the ripe age of 5.
I even believed I had superpowers and needed to force them out much like a young Clark Kent did in the comics. My parents would often find me on top of our roof trying to “teach” myself how to fly only to discover the crushing reality of Isaac Newton and gravity. At one point in my childhood my grandmother thought I had been abducted from children’s church when she went to pick up “Benjamin Sledge” but the workers had no record of him ever being checked in. They did, however, find a young boy who resembled Benjamin Sledge but was named “Clark Kent”.
Yes. I am infatuated with the lore and story behind the Man of Steel, but when this trailer came out I couldn’t help but think of a similar story……A Christmas story……
Our story begins in a small town named Nazareth where a young 13-year old virgin named Mary is about to get married to a man named Joseph. Her quiet life is suddenly interrupted when the angel Gabriel appears and tells her she’s going to give birth to the Savior of the world.
“Whoa whoa whoa Sledge! A 13-year old virgin!?”
My entire life I’ve always pictured Mary, the mother of Jesus, as older, wise and pious. The pictures of her don’t help. I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about? Mary has a super elongated neck and is holding a baby Jesus but his face looks like he’s 35? The reality is that historians and theologians confirm that Mary was about 13 years old according to Jewish traditions and culture (and not that it should even count, but so does Wikipedia). Helps explain a lot of her responses and actions in the bible now, doesn’t it?
Creepy man baby!
Eventually, Caesar Augustus makes a decree that all should be registered (for taxation purposes. Ever wonder why we have censuses? Now you know…..) and Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem where she basically gives birth in the modern day equivalent of a back alley and places her young child in a feeding trough (we’ve made the nativity scene very pretty compared to the reality of it).
The child is Jesus, who, if you are a Christian, we believe was both fully man and fully God and grows up to transform the modern day world.
I often wonder what it must have been like to be Joseph and Mary. Knowing that you’re raising the Son of God? That he has all these powers and is destined for greatness (and in an even stranger thought that will make your head explode if you dwell on it too long, was his parent’s creator).
And then I think of that trailer. Superman’s story begins when his spaceship slams into the middle of rural Kansas. It doesn’t slam into Trump Tower and he doesn’t end up getting raised by Donald Trump, no, he ends up with Jonathan and Martha Kent; poor farmers who struggle to keep their farm afloat and can’t have children of their own. On that day their world is turned upside-down by the arrival of their soon-to-be-adopted son.
What they discover is that their son, Clark, while having the appearance of a human, possesses the power of a God.
Imagine the pressure on Jonathan and Martha Kent??? Their son has the power to destroy their world…..or save it. And so Clark is raised in humility and obscurity, often choosing to limit his powers, having people mock him, getting “beat up”, all the while having power immensely beyond his human counterparts. This simple fact causes him to repeatedly wrestle with his human emotions and his kryptonian heritage. Even after Clark steps into his role as Superman he willingly choses to limit himself by taking on the human persona of a bumbling news reporter.
Superman willing to limit himself……
Are you seeing the connection yet?
Christ could have easily been born in a mansion but is born poor and in humility to common people. He stays obscure until it’s time to step out and transform the world. He wrestles with the fact that he is both God and man and as the scriptures would say “was tempted in every way”, which means that even like Superman, he was tempted with power.
And yet he limits himself and puts on human skin in the form of a servant.
I think the reason we are enamored with Superman’s story is we want to believe the impossible while at the same time relating to it. We want Superman to be LIKE us, to have to make the hard decisions and still remain good, even when we know most of us are rotten down to our very core.
We want the same from God.
And so he paints a picture……in Bethlehem. In a manger. In a story of common folk raising a child.