Monday, December 14, 2015

Forces Awaken

I'm very excited.

We are so very near to two big events in the calendar - one secular, the other religious. The first is the release of the new Star Wars film this week (I've got my tickets for a 3D showing on Wednesday (going solo... Han Solo), and a 2D showing with friends on Thursday. Here's a fan re-edit and mash up of the trailers:
The second of course is Christmas... the time of year when Christians like me celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the new hope that the law and prophets spoke of in the Old Testament.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what links these two very different events personally, in my own mind. I've found it very interesting and poignant that all through the promotional months we have seen precious little of the main protagonist of the original trilogy - Luke Skywalker.  Fans have been getting very anxious about it, some are worried it means that Luke has turned to the dark side, others think he won't be in it much at all... still others have come up with the (crazy) idea that Adam Driver's character (Kylo Ren), is actually Luke and the casting of Driver is all part of some big conspiracy. I share the anxiety but not the fear. We've all become hung up on the question of "Where is Luke Skywalker"?

However, I keep going back to what J.J. Abrams said about accepting the job of director for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. He said that originally he was not going to take the job on, but then he was told the synopsis by Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy. It was a single question - "Who is Luke Skywalker?" That single concept turned him around 180 degrees... and he was on board from that moment on. He has since been quoted in interview as saying:
“The idea that Luke Skywalker now, nearly 40 years after the movie came out, I started thinking he would be as good as of a myth to people who are 19, 20 years old. The idea of a new group of young people, not knowing who he is or who any of the characters were, is the beginning of what became the story of the film.”
And there in a nutshell is what for me is connecting the release of the new Star Wars, with Christmas. Let me adapt that Abrams quote and alter the subject... because I actually think it says something quite important about the subject of faith:
“The idea that Jesus Christ now, nearly 2,000 years after his public ministry, I started thinking he would be as good as of a myth to people who are 19, 20 years old. The idea of a new group of young people, not knowing who he is or who any of the characters were, is the beginning of what became the story of the film.”
You see therein lies the heart of the matter.  As Christians we get so hung up about demanding "Where is Jesus?" in the festive celebrations... but that's defensive and about fearing what we care about will be ignored by others.  True evangelism isn't driven by the fear of rejection... it's driven mutually by the love of the subject  and the love of the uninformed audience. We actually need to move the question on.  We need the question to be "Who is Jesus Christ?".

One of the main trailers for the Force Awakens has a line of dialogue between Rey and Han Solo, it literally made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Rey is talking to Han about the history of the Rebel Alliance and mentions that there are stories about what happened. Han's response is brief and to the point:
"It's true. All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi. They're real."
That it is Han Solo who speaks this way of the Force is deeply significant; after all in the first movie he appears in, his view on the Force is very different, telling the young Luke Skywalker:
"Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen *anything* to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. 'Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense."
That's quite some turn around.

It may well be that Han's concept of the personal significance of the Force isn't much different, but for him to have come forward as a kind of reluctant evangelist and state "it's real", is immensely powerful.

The changing views of Han Solo
For the record, I'm not saying in any way that Jesus is a myth... I'm saying quite the opposite. I'm merely saying that if we want to stop people seeing Jesus as a myth, we need to move on from repeating stories to them that they already know (when they know them), and show the reality of Christ in how we live.

Often people get hung up on dressing Christianity up, be it with the bells and smells of tradition or an explosive light show that would put even Michael Bay to shame; but actually if we took a step back we'd see the simplicity.  It all boils down to conviction - a person or a group of people stepping forward and demonstrating with sincerity that it happened... that Jesus was, is and always shall be real and has had a tangible presence in their life.

Han Solo is not a Jedi... in fact he was (and almost certainly still is), a bit of a rogue. He can't levitate X Wing fighters and furniture and he can't perform mind tricks... but what he can do is be honest about his loyalties and the things he has seen.  I think what I'm saying is that for Christians, it doesn't matter how the Holy Spirit has gifted us in relation to things like prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, leading, teaching and the like... we might think we are fairly lacking in any or all of those areas, but God still speaks through our everyday lives and we should not underestimate the power, relevance and importance of our own day-to-day testimony. It's because Han Solo has known Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance that he is able to speak with total conviction about their reality. Likewise because we have known the presence of Jesus in our own lives we too can speak of him with conviction:

"It's true. All of it. The sinful nature, the Saviour. They're real." 

Over to you:
  • What excites or worries you most about the forthcoming Star Wars film?
  • What excites or worries you about Christmas?
  • Is Christmas true for you? All of it? Is it real?

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