“Welcome to the real world.” These are the first words Neo hears upon his “birth” into the real world in the movie “The Matrix.” He has assumed, along with every one else that he had been living in the real world all along, but the truth was much darker and quite horrifying. Every one was alive, yes, but not living. Instead human beings were being “grown” as an energy supply for the machines that had taken over the world. The machines fed signals into the brains of the humans to make them think they were really living in a real world. As Morpheus tells Neo,
The Matrix . . .is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. . . . That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Things are not as they seem and there is need for a hero, in this case the messiah-like man Neo, to rescue humanity from its bondage, but first he must realise his. Neo’s ultimate “reality check” is his “birth” of sorts. For the machines this event would be described more as being aborted from his womb-like cocoon, but being rescued by those who know the truth he is literally born into a new world, the real world. And the real world is not pretty;
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. . . . most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
Christmas is a reality check. A saviour is born to us, but if that is true, then the truth is that we, like those stuck in the Matrix, are in bondage. The Saviour was born because a saviour is needed. This is unwelcome news for many, a bitter pill to swallow. And the birth of Jesus was a bitter pill for Herod, so much so in fact that the Christmas story is accompanied by the murder of all the children two years and under in Bethlehem in an attempt to delete the upstart king (see Matthew 2:13-18). Reality was that Herod is not the king, Jesus is. And many flounder in this same reality check today: we are not king, Jesus is. We are not fine, we have a sin problem whether we are aware of it or not. Welcome to the real world. Thankfully the unwelcome news of the reality of our sin comes along with the Good News: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11 NRSV) and “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16 NRSV)
Every day and up to ten times a day my middle son goes through a reality check. Being a Type 1 diabetic he must prick his finger, draw some blood and check his glucose levels. If they are high, he must get insulin, if they they are low, he must get sugar. These are constant checks-on-reality and there is no room for interpretation, no making up what you would like to be true, and as much room for Post-modern waffling as there was room in the inn that first Christmas. Each blood check is a reality check and based upon that reality a decision must be made. Insulin, sugar, or sit content with a good reading, a decision must be made. Mary and Joseph decided to go with God in what He was doing in their midst. The shepherds decided to see this thing that had happened. The Magi decided to look for this new king. Herod decided to get rid of him. Welcome to the real world where there is sin and salvation. What will you do?