By Michael Mendis
When Geralt of Rivia walks into a room, people respond.
In the video game series The Witcher, you play as Geralt of Rivia, a gruff, cynical man who hunts monsters for a living. As a professional monster slayer, a Witcher, he spends a lot of time on the road, getting dirty and sleeping under the stars. He has also undergone dangerous mutations that give him heightened senses, making him more efficient at tracking and killing his prey, and altering his appearance in such a way that everyone can recognize what he does simply by looking into his eyes. And despite his disdain for politics, his connections to some of the most powerful people in the land wind up entangling him in matters of the state.
Wherever he goes, Geralt always receives a mixed welcome, at best. Some people, namely those in need of his services as a Witcher, respond positively (appreciation, relief), recognizing his talents and requesting assistance. Many others, however, respond negatively (fear, hatred, disgust), and for any number of reasons: his harsh visage, his smell from being on the road, the dark and mysterious rumors that spread about Witchers and what they do. Even kings take note when he makes an appearance, given his proclivity to complicate their affairs. But no matter where Geralt goes, he can expect that his presence will likely be met with a strong reaction.
As those of us at Gospel & Gaming have been diving into the Christmas season and studying various Advent Audiences, I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity between people’s responses to Jesus, and people’s responses to Geralt in the Witcher series. Just like with Geralt, Jesus’ arrival into our world was met with a lot of strong reactions, some positive and some negative. Those who responded positively where those who recognized that he would play a role in saving them, and indeed the whole world: Mary sings a song of praise for God’s mercy and grace (Luke 1:46-55), the shepherds glorified and praised God for what they saw at the manger (Luke 2:20), and the priest Simeon acknowledged Jesus as the salvation that God had prepared for people of every nation (Luke 2:29-32).
In contrast, King Herod responded with fear and brutality. When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they asked Herod where they could find the king of the Jews - not him, who held the political title of King, but the messiah foretold in ancient prophecies. Herod, rather than seeing Jesus as a savior or a sign of God’s love for the world, saw Jesus as a threat to the power he clung to so desperately. He plotted how to find and kill Jesus, and when his first plan failed, he went to even more extreme measures, ordering the death of every infant boy in the region (Matthew 2:1-18).
How do you respond to Jesus? He is indeed a beacon of hope, the one who has come to reconcile our relationship with God. Like Geralt, who provides a needed service of monster slaying, Jesus provides the salvation that we all desperately need. Yet it is also true that he has come to take ultimate authority over our lives; all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18), and that inevitably means we have to relinquish control, changing to conform to his will for us. Geralt makes things complicated for the kings and rulers of the Witcher series; Jesus goes beyond that and subjugates everything and everyone, from the mightiest ruler down to the lowliest slave, to himself. Do you respond to all of this with praise, glorifying God for what he has done for us? Or do you respond out of fear or anger, unwilling to allow Jesus to take control?