Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Eve: Death on the Horizon of Salvation

Warning: This post is full of spoilers for Log Horizon's second season. This intro post has a notable spoiler from the first episode of the new season, so if you want to avoid all spoilers related to this series, do not read past the image.

Log Horizon is a show that really surprised me with how much depth it has. With equal parts worldbuilding and character development, it's pretty much everything I want from a videogame-inspired fantasy series. As such, I was very much looking forward to the second season. And despite starting off a bit weird, it soon proves its worth as it develops both the lead Shiroe and his ninja companion Akatsuki.

Christmas Eve is a great time to spend by an ethereal lake with your favorite ninja.
The first episode ends on a bit of an ominous note, with an unexplained time jump and a reveal that both Akatsuki and Shiroe have died in-game, and on Christmas Eve, too. The episodes afterwards reveal the circumstances which lead to their first game deaths, as well as what happens when they revive. As it turns out, for both Akatsuki and Shiroe, their death is a learning experience, and a start of significant character growth for both of them.

It's quite interestingly (and perhaps unintentionally) symbolic that they both died on Christmas Eve--the day before Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Further spoilers for later episodes follow after the jump.

For Akatsuki, in the days up to that Christmas Eve, she had been trying hard to protect the in-game town of Akihabara from a rampant and overpowered serial killer. Part of her efforts included trying to learn the Teachings, secret skills available to each class that could not be accessed when Elder Tale was just a game. However, being someone devoted only to her "lord" Shiroe and otherwise reliant on her own strength, she tries to handle the whole situation on her own, silently observing others to try to learn the Teachings and trying to gain the strength to defeat the murderer herself. After she is defeated, she comes to the realization that she cannot defeat the murderer on her own, and decides to ask for the help of others to learn the Teachings and take down the serial killer.

For Shiroe, after his death while unexpectedly fighting three raid bosses at once, we find out that he had been hiding his true objectives from others. Afterwards, he resolves to let everyone know what he is going for; the show has yet to reach that point, but already, he is interacting with the others in his raid party more.

While neither Akatsuki's nor Shiroe's deaths were permanent, they did both have something important die for good that Christmas Eve: their self-reliance. Whether that was Akatsuki's not wanting to appear weak or Shiroe's distrust of others, both of them had been trying to put their ultimate trust in themselves. They both needed to die, figuratively and in-game, to realize that they needed to look outside of themselves to do what they need to do.

It's interesting that they both died on Christmas Eve, as Christmas Eve can symbolize the death of humanity's self-reliance--the moment when humanity most desperately wanted a savior, the day before the Savior arrived in the world.

At the very least, there's certainly evidence to believe the Jews were desperately hoping for a savior. At that point, Israel had been completely taken over by the Roman Empire, which forced the Jews into submission to them. Add in all sorts of instability within the Roman government and the ever-present diseases and thievery of tax collectors, and it's not hard to imagine that the Jews were waiting with much anticipation for the Messiah that was prophesied to come to deliver them.

Well, some of them were, at least. Unfortunately, with all the trials experienced by the Jews while lacking any further word from God on when the Messiah was coming, some Jews decided to take matters into their own hands and sought salvation from the establishment and rigid adherence to their own created tradition. This is where the Pharisees and other extra-religious Jewish groups came from. So, once Jesus arrived, he had to teach everyone what he had really come to save everyone from, and to do that he needed to make everyone realize that they could not find salvation in their own efforts, and that what they really needed was the grace of God to forgive their sins.

Christmas Eve is probably most well-known as the night when kids are desperately awaiting the gifts they get on Christmas day. They are in complete anticipation for something they cannot get for themselves. Their faith in something outside of themselves on that day is just another way our own faith should be described as "childlike":  we can only truly experience the grace of God in our lives if we stop trying to look to ourselves and instead look to God--and by extension, His people--to help us.

As such, before we can receive our own Christmas present of God's grace, we too need to "die" to ourselves on "Christmas Eve". We need to die to our self-reliance, of trying to do everything on our own. We need to abide in Jesus and his love, as apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5; I'll be talking more about this in a later post). So if you are not a Christian and have found that trying to do everything by yourself just is not working, perhaps this holiday season is the time to stop by a church and seriously look into what God's Christmas gift to you can be. And for Christians, even we can fall into the trap of trying to do things apart from God now and then, so this Christmas Eve can be a good time to die to ourselves once again.

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