The Flash Mob as a Portrait of Grace

Think about the gifts of Grace this Christmas.

Although I have a strong preference for books over all kinds of screens, I have to admit that I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube videos of flash mobs. I just can’t resist the joy of watching a host of people come out of the woodwork to surprise unknowing bystanders with song or dance.

For example, the first time I watched this video of the Pacific Coast Highlanders (a bagpipe team) in a mall at Christmastime, it brought me to tears. 

I also love this video of the Riverdance team surprising travelers at a train station on St. Patrick’s Day.

And then there’s this one, an orchestra suddenly converging and blessing people with Beethoven’s Ninth in Catalonia.

These videos often stir something deep within us. And why is that? What makes it so moving to see a group of people appearing out of nowhere to bring joy to unsuspecting strangers?   

I think one answer to this question is the fact that flash mobs are amazingly creative. A flash mob requires an immense amount of imagination, artisanship, and technical excellence, not to mention the logistics of getting everyone there for the surprise. So when we are walking through the mall, and suddenly, a crowd begins to gather, and there is a sudden explosion of unexpected creativity and imagination and beauty, it resonates deep inside us and gives us a moment we will never forget for the rest of our lives.

But another answer to this question is that when we see a flash mob, we are seeing grace

And what is grace? Grace is a gift of unmerited favor. To experience grace is to be given something wonderful that we did not earn—at all. When we are given something that a person was not compelled to give us, but was given freely, we are receiving an act of grace. 

For example, when we enjoy a good meal at a restaurant, we leave a gratuity (a word connected to the word grace). No one makes us leave this money with the server. We leave it as a free, uncompelled gift.

Grace is rare in our world. These days, when we see people gather publicly, it is often an angry crowd holding up angry signs and shouting people down. 

But a gathering in the name of grace can be just as powerful. And there is something particularly beautiful and rare and surprising when a group of people gathers to shower strangers with an undeserved blessing. 

Want to see grace? Just watch this video of WestJet surprising a plane full of passengers with gifts.

This is grace. Grace is so beautiful and so unexpected that it can move us to tears. Grace is so surprising that when we are offered it, it moves us beyond anything else we’ve ever experienced.

Christmas is a wonderful time to remember the grace that was given to each of us in the person of a Savior. We didn’t earn Him. He came freely, as a gift to the world. 

And I love how flash mobs, in their unexpected gifts of dance and song, portray a small echo of His love.


Image via Pixabay.

Nathan Huffstutler
Nathan Huffstutler teaches college literature and writing in southern Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and their three daughters. He has published essays, book reviews, and poetry, and he loves bookstores, nature, and wonder.

1 Comment

  • December 19, 2017


    I know just what you mean! Watch this one:

    It’s just so rare and wonderful when everybody shuts up and acts human and does something beautiful just for the beauty of it, and it makes me cry, too.