Holding Out for a Hero
Surely we can all agree that Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero,” made famous in the chicken-with-tractors scene in Footloose, is one of the greatest dancing / workout / jammin’ / awesome songs of the modern era. The music is fabulous with a driving sense of urgency, Bonnie’s scratchy shout-type singing brings the right edge, and the fact that it was immortalized in a classic good-conquers-evil — or at least nicer-guy-faces-down-deadbeat-bully — clip just ices the cake.
The first verse get me every time: “Where’ve all the good men gone / and where are all the gods? / Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds? / Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed? / Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need.”
Then comes – sing it with me now – “I need a hero / I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night / he’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight / I need a hero / I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light / he’s gotta be sure and it’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life, larger than life.” [You’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head all day. And if you need to relive the scene, here’s the link.]
Turns out that two thousand years ago when there was quite a bit more at stake than whether Ren McCormack would best Chuck Cranston in a face-off of wits, a hero was exactly what the Israelites – God’s chosen people – wanted, needed; they were indeed holding out for a hero just as they had been for quite some time.
They had ridden waves in their history. Being God’s chosen ones had not meant having easy lives. They had endured literal centuries of great highs and great lows: wars and victories, enslavements and freedoms, conflicts and triumphs, tensions and (relative) peace, faithlessness and faithfulness … all only to be repeated time and again, seemingly with no end in sight. They messed and God forgave them, and then the next generation repeated the cycle, only to be followed by the next and the next and the next.
Hopelessness reared its ugly head.
The last words from any prophets about what the Messiah would be like and what He would mean to and for the Hebrew people had come hundreds of years before. Entire generations were born, lived, and died, with no subsequent word from God about when, where, how the Messiah would come. Universally the expectation was that God would send a warrior king, one who would deliver the Israelites from the hands of their constant, repeated, much-larger, more vicious enemies.
They were holding out for a hero who would win against all odds, who would conquer the Hebrews’ conquerors, who would redeem the lives of the Jewish people, who would establish God’s kingdom of His chosen ones once and for all.
Finally, that Messiah, that hero did come … just not in the form the Hebrews expected. He came in the form of a tiny flesh-and-blood Babe who had to be swaddled to survive the cold, nursed to sustain life, wiped clean to stave off infection, and kissed and held tight to learn to receive human love.
The Babe grew up, and the world has never been the same. He didn’t fit the mold of the warrior king so many of God’s people had expected and waited for, but He changed the world forever in a way no warrior king could have. He became a steady warrior who focused less on the enemies who rage against those who would and do believe in Him and more on the enemies we all have within: sin, selfishness, prejudice, unforgiveness. He is the atypical warrior who seeks to rid us of what keeps us from living for Him, surrendering to Him, giving ourselves to Him and therefore to His children.
Many of the Israelites did not know what to do with or about Him. But many did, even at His birth. And more would continue to come to Him, to see Him as the fulfillment of God’s repeated prophecies, throughout His life on earth. Billions more over the past almost two-thousand years since His death would seek Him, give their lives to Him, realizing that He’s less The Hero Who Wins Against All Odds and more The Messiah who redeems our odds.
He came to seek and to save the lost. Perhaps that’s why He came in the form of the helpless Babe. From the earliest days of His life on earth, His message in every way has been, “I came for You.” And three decades after His birth, His message – given in a most remarkable, unforgettable way on a cross on a hill – remained, “I came for You.”
He is, was, and ever will be the Hero who is holding out … for you.
Merry Christmas, and Godspeed.