Jesus - A New Hope 3
December 10, 2017 Series: Jesus - A New Hope
Passage: Isaiah 6:1–6:4, Isaiah 6:8–6:11
12.10.2017 Jesus: A New Hope 3 (The Force Awakens)
Scripture: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
Two years ago I went into a movie theatre to see a much anticipated blockbuster on its opening night. Now that never happens. At least not for me. I️ think I’ve seen two movies ever on opening night, one was a Harry Potter movie in college when we drove two hours to a midnight showing. And then drove two hours back. Because 20 year olds are idiots. And the only other time was this time.
I got tickets and went to see Star Wars The Force Awakens on opening night and I had no idea what to expect.
I had no idea where the story would go. How do you restart this franchise? It ended in such a good place in Return of the Jedi. How do you get new plot, a new narrative, new dramatic movement out of a closed story? I hadn’t read any spoilers, I hadn’t read any reviews or anything, I️ wanted to be surprised and taken on a journey. But I️ had no idea where they’d go.
Was that the case for anyone else?
It turns out, spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it, that the way you restart Star Wars is to basically just do the whole thing over again. There’s something big and evil to fight against. There’s an unsuspecting hero from an out of the way planet. There’s a powerful bad guy who once was good but has turned bad. There’s even a cantina scene!
I️ don’t just do this to attempt to play armchair film critic, as fun as that sounds. I️ bring this up because I️ think it has a lot to do with Advent.
Star Wars The Force Awakens was fairly well universally liked and applauded. Everyone who went to see it in the theatre had one worry: it would be bad like the prequels. And it wasn’t. It was good. It was fun. But if there was one criticism it’s that the film was too derivative, too similar, to the good ones that came before it, namely A New Hope.
It can be weird to celebrate Advent in 2017. Advent is a season where we talk about waiting for the Messiah, preparing our hearts for the Messiah. The best way this makes sense is in preparing for Christmas which we are all doing holiday shopping and decorating. But really it’s about preparing for Christ. But Christ has come! The Messiah came into the world over 2000 years ago. Outside of awaiting the second coming, why do we celebrate Advent? And why do we do it every. Single. Year. Surely talking about our need to wait once every few years would be enough.
We do this every year because the way closed narratives become new and exciting again is to revisit them. That’s true in movies, it’s true in Scripture, and it’s true in our lives. It’s particularly true in our lives. How often do we encounter the same struggles, the same challenges, the same difficulties? How often do we attempt to get over the same doubts, the same sins, the same foibles? How often do our lives seemingly repeat? And how often do we need to hear the same Good News from God again and again?
Every year in Advent we hear the same words from the prophets that promise God’s climactic action. And this year will be no differently. So let’s hear again the promise of God that God will come and God will be here and God will be for us even in the midst of our mess. Hear these words from Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
So that’s the basic message. Every year we hear these words because every year we need to. But since we still have a bit more time, I’m going to go into more detail on this. But despite the details, despite getting into the plot of Force Awakens, I want you to leave here today remembering that we do Advent each year and we celebrate Christmas each year because each year we need to be reminded that Jesus has come and Jesus is coming and we can welcome and receive anew the Christ child into our hearts and more and more into our worlds.
When the movie the Force Awakens begins, we are introduced to an evil First Order that has arisen to challenge the peaceful Republic. The Republic was re-installed after Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy and the gang defeated the evil Empire. The remnants of the Empire fled to the far reaches of the galaxy and began reorganizing and militarizing to rebuild the ruins of the Empire. This time, the First Order would get it right and succeed where the Empire had failed. As the movie opens, we see that the First Order has massive starships, a huge army of Stormtroopers, and a master of the Dark Side.
The Republic has not taken the threat of the First Order seriously. They have allowed the First Order to grow unchecked for decades and still do not see the danger the Republic is in. Tired of inaction, Leia organizes the Resistance to oppose the First Order. But really quickly we figure out that whatever the Resistance looks like, its seriously outgunned by the First Order.
We need to observe Advent each year because how often is it that things in our life and our world begin to creep in on us. How quickly can self-interest and self-absorption take root. First somewhere along the edges. And then more and more. It’s not because we’re horrible people. We are hard wired for self-preservation and elements or our culture feed that. This is a silly example but there are times when I’m driving where someone will want to come over into my lane and I get mad that they’re taking my place. Telephone calls become impositions on my time and my agenda. The kingdom of me grows and grows.
Oftentimes in our relationships we can grow distant from others. We can allow grudges to grow and linger. We can allow important relationships to be sacrificed on the altar of career, busy-ness, or lack of effort.
In our communities we can allow problems to grow, progress to wane and be undone, and people to hurt and continue to be hurt. Not that we are uncaring or unmoved. Simply through lack of understanding, lack of listening, through blind spots.
We have our own First Orders. They function on may layers, many levels. One of the best quotes in Force Awakens is from Maz Kanata. If you don’t know who Maz Kanata is, she’s the one who ran the new cantina Han, Rey, and Finn visited. If you’re now even more confused, it’s ok. You don’t have to know to get the quote. She said, “Throughout the ages…I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.”
Evil takes many forms in our world. Evil takes many forms in our lives. How do we combat it? How do we face it? How do we fight it so that it cannot spread to more of our hearts, more of our lives, more of our world?
In the Force Awakens, the key was to look backward. The Resistance knew that to stop the spread of the First Order, they needed their Jedi. And so much of the Force Awakens centers around getting a map that would point the way towards Luke Skywalker. Of course there are other things that happen, but that’s the main mission of the movie. Get the piece of the map then the full map that would point the way to Luke. And along the way they found someone who appears to have some use of the Force and the hope at the end of the Force Awakens is that this new person could learn to do the things that Luke did that made Luke able to bring down the Empire and Emperor. Could this new person learn those things and in turn bring down the First Order?
Likewise our hope comes in looking backward. Our hope comes in looking to signs that point to Jesus. Our hope comes from looking at the promises of a savior, what that savior would do, what that savior did, and hoping that we might learn those ways ourself.
So we hear Isaiah saying of the Messiah: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
The Messiah is coming to wage war agains that forms that evil takes in our world. The Messiah is coming to give aid to the poor, to comfort those who mourn, to give forgiveness and peace to those held captive, to announce that God’s reign is coming. The Messiah is coming to oppose the things that keep people afraid, the things that cause people to turn inward and self-interested rather than loving and seeking the flourishing of others. The Messiah is coming to undo the basic inequalities that are apart of our lives. The Messiah is coming to instill loving relationships rather than hateful grudges. The Messiah is coming to restore our love of God and others.
You see the First Orders in our lives seek to make us fear God rather than love God. They seek to make us afraid that God is out to get us. They seek to convince us that God will punish us. The First Orders in our lives seek to make us forget the ways of God, forget all that God has done for us, forget that there is a God who reaches out to us in His deep love and mercy. The First Orders in our lives seek to make us fear our neighbors rather than love them. The First Orders in our lives try to convince us that the other is out to get us, out to take from us, out to rob us of all that we have earned. The First Orders in our lives try to convince us that the only security we can is the security we earn and gain for ourselves. The First Orders in our lives tell us that life is a zero sum game and that to get for ourselves we have to take from others, and that if others don’t have anything it’s the price you pay to have something yourself.
The Messiah is coming to oppose this. The Messiah is coming to fight against this. The Messiah is coming to open our eyes to a loving God, a gracious God who creates abundance out of abundance. Who loves His creation. Who seeks the flourishing of all people in a non-competitive way. The Messiah is coming to show us that we can oppose fear, oppose self-interest, oppose isolation. The Messiah is coming to show us that fight on the side of love, the side of justice, the side of charity. The Messiah is coming to show us that we can resist evil. The Messiah is coming to show us we can defeat evil.
We celebrate Advent each year to be reminded that there are forms that evil takes in our world and that if we don’t watch those forms will grow and grow unchecked. We celebrate Advent each year looking for signs that point us to the one who can opposed and defeat the forms that evil takes in our world.
But we also celebrate Advent each year to be reminded that we need to learn the ways of the one who comes into the world to defeat evil. We need to learn the ways of the Messiah. The hope in Force Awakens comes from the potential for Rey to learn the ways of the Force, the ways of Luke Skywalker and in turn defeat the new form that evil is taking in the galaxy. Our hope this season, our hope this year is that we can learn from the ways of Jesus, the ways of the Messiah and use them to fight the forms that evil is taking in our world.
With two weeks left until Christmas I would challenge each of you to look at your lives and find ways to embody the ways of the Messiah in your lives, in your homes, in your spheres of influence. How can you find ways of being good news to the poor in the next two weeks and in the coming year? Can you donate some propane tanks or can you donate some money for propane tanks? Can you keep some socks in your car so that when you see someone in the median at a stoplight you can give them something they need? Can you keep a McDonalds gift card?
How can you be present and be loving to someone who is mourning this season? I’m sure there’s someone in your life who finds this season to be a difficult one. Their parents isn’t here for the first time. Their child won’t be coming home for Christmas. They’re alone. How can you show them they are not forgotten, but are loved?
How can you repair a relationship this season? Have you not talked to a family member, to a friend, to a neighbor in a long while? Can you forgive and reach out? Can you try to make it better? Can you inject love and grace into a space where there’s hurt, pain, or cold indifference?
Are there places or people in your life who need to hear that God’s favor is coming? Who is hurting? Who is hopeless? Who is needing to hear that God’s Messiah is coming to redeem and make better the hurts and injustices in their lives? How can you be a part of announcing that the time will come when God will show up and be there in a big way?
In a few days the new Star Wars movie will come out. There was genuine hope at the end of the Force Awakens. Hope that, despite the creeping evil of the First Order, that the light side of the force will find a way to bring right and proper order to the galaxy. In Advent we are reminded of the real hope we have that God will come and bring order to our world. And in Advent we are invited to participate in that hope, to be ourselves signs of that hope, and to do all that we can to embody the ways of the Messiah in the world. This is our task as we approach the celebration of the coming of the Christ. Let us pray.