On December 18th, after having to wait for over seven years, fans of the Star Wars series were treated to a new movie release that had the “force awaken” and Han Solo put to rest (my son freaked out upon hearing this last detail). Sci-Fi junkies waited in line for hours, and many dressed up in costumes to commemorate the opening of the movie.
Only seven days before Christmas, the movie captured the attention of an American populace that is intrigued with a fictional battle in a far away place. Imagination has always been a powerful tool for exploration and entertainment. Rabid moviegoers spend millions as George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and Disney, the recent purchaser, celebrate their production.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, thousands of churches in America will celebrate Christmas with children plays, musical cantatas, candlelight communion services and perhaps even a living Christmas tree or a spiritual adaptation of the old Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”.
Somewhere in between lies an interesting conversation about the power of a Star to lead us, and the intrigue of a battle to save us. Notwithstanding the fact that many consider the story of Jesus in a manger to be just as fictional as Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea, one must admit that the staying power of the Bethlehem birth of Christ is more revealing than the success of Star Wars.
Although, I am probably one of only a few humans on earth that have not ever watched a Star Wars movie, my understanding of the series is that there is a battle between good and evil. A rebel alliance and a galactic empire. Then of course, based on my extensive research, there is a war in the stars. All of which makes me yawn until I think of its spiritual application.
The book of Matthew records that wise men over two thousand years ago and from somewhere in the East followed an unusual star for thousands of miles to Jerusalem. There must have been something special about this star that they followed for such a distance and to King Herod of Israel’s court. Upon arriving, they announced by asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen His star in the East and are come to worship him.”
This declaration did not sit well with the present King of the Jews, Herod. He concocted a plan to kill the baby Jesus, but when the wise men did not participate in this scheme, Herod had all the infants in Bethlehem killed to remove this threat to his throne. Not only were the wise men supernaturally warned of the plot, Joseph, the father of Jesus, was also warned and he had already moved his young family to Egypt.
Beyond the miracle of God clothing himself in flesh and being born in the most humbling of all circumstances… in a barn and laid in a feeding trough, lies the contrast between the greatest gift bestowed upon humanity and the greatest battle known to man.
This story was the original Star Wars. It was not Han Solo or Darth Vader. It was not the galactic empire or the rebel alliance. It was Jesus, Joseph, Herod and wise men from the East. Sort of a Holy Alliance and an Evil Empire. The miracle was born in the midst of danger, fear, intrigue, and uncertainty.
A star is light, and this Light called Christ was born under the cloak of a pretty serious lampshade. The Star of Light was shrouded with unlikely circumstances and unappealing surroundings. Although, it was the answer to the prayers of millions of people over a period of thousands of year, it was not obvious.
That light is the hope that each of us has in Christ. It is the real force, and when it awakens, anything is possible. The lyrics of a Jane Taylor poem in the 19th Century reminds us of the dream and the wonder: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky…”
The beauty of a star or the wonder of a child is not easy to bottle, and no doubt will always have the adversity of dream killers and naysayers, still it is what illuminates our hearts and brightens our soul. It is the Christmas message, and it is alive and well.