You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks and
the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
Picture the Shire in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: It is a gentle and bounteous place where “the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain.” But right below the surface of this peaceful and pleasant image lies an ominous presence that threatens the very existence of the idyllic Shire. The gathering menace promises the desolation described by the prophet Jeremiah: “The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations . . .” (Isaiah 24:10–13).
But Tolkien wrote an epic of salvation and hope where the peaceful Shire is saved through the quest of the most unlikely heroes. The prophets of Israel also tell of a Savior to come who will restore peace and joy to the land and who will invite us to join the battle in His name. And He too will be just as unlikely as the fictional hobbits: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:2–3). His name: Christ Jesus of Nazareth.
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts