Star Wars and Christmas

Star Wars and ChristmasIMG_2005

I love great stories! They are part of the fabric of all cultures. As a lover of stories, I have waited for this weekend for decades! This weekend marks the continuation of the Star Wars saga. I remember being a kid and going to see Return of the Jedi with my brothers in the biggest movie theatre in a 20 mile area. It was my first time in front of such a big screen and I was blown away.
My reaction was induced in part by elements that make up any good story. Luke Skywlaker was the “nobody” from a forgotten part of the galaxy, Tattooine. This is actually a narrative device common in most epic tales. The unexpected nobody, from somewhere forgotten, comes to save the day.
Anthropologist Joseph Campbell helped us to understand this storytelling technique in his academic work. He studied and wrote about the epic stories of thousands of cultures. In doing so, he found a common framework upon which all stories are told. In fact, what makes stories “different” are nothing more than the details, wrinkles, twists and turns, but at their core, all stories pretty much follow the “hero’s journey.” Luke Skywalker, Mulan, Harry Potter, Sarah Conner (Terminator), Frodo Baggins, Catness Everdeen. There are a lot of differences between these stories, but there is also a common element. The heroes/heroines are outsiders, who encounter a mentor, who gives them a special gift, which enables them to make an epic quest, through which they are able to heal a broken world.

 

I have no idea as I am writing this what director J.J. Abrams or writer Michael Arndt have planned for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I’m pretty sure that whatever they produce will follow that model.

 

My only spoiler alert is to let you know that I was trained by Jesuits and part of Jesuit education has been to explore the great stories of culture. Odysseus, King Arthur, Macbeth, Faust, and so on. These were the stories I studied with the Jesuits. My Catholic parish priest once asked me, “Why do they study all that nonsense? Why waste one’s time? Why not spend the time to study Jesus?”
To which there is a very simple answer. The stories of culture, both fiction and non-fiction, help excite our imagination so that our minds might better grasp the story of Jesus.

 

Because the story of Jesus also follows the same model of the “hero’s journey” detailed by Joseph Campbell. We read about it todays first reading. MI 5:1-2 “Thus says the Lord, You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

 

Take away the fact that we’ve heard this passage dozens of times, and it sounds like dialog right out of the script of Star Wars or some other epic tale. From the smallest, from the least, from the outskirts, from the outliers, there, where no one is looking will come salvation. That is where Jesus comes, from the badlands, from the nowhere, from the “Tattooine” or “Shire” or “District 12” of his time and place.
And how profound is it that the story of Jesus is not only epic in scope, but is also real! His story, and its ongoing sequel, directed by the Holy Spirit and played out by us, is the ultimate blockbuster. We are part of a transcendental mega story that has played out over two thousand years! The story, and its mystery, is retold with dramatic prelude in this weekend’s lectionary. The story is building, and comes to a climatic high point this Friday when we celebrate Christmas. So don’t forget that as we move past the opening weekend of Star Wars. We are actually waiting for an incredible real life story to unfold, and anything we see in the theatre is meant to ignite our imagination so we can turn it towards the greatest story of all. The story of Jesus Christ.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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