Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star Wars, Christmas and a Burrito

As I write this article, I am eagerly anticipating something very important. My heart is all aflutter in expectation. My mind is racing with soon-to-be-realized joy and excitement. It’s like Advent has a whole new meaning – pregnant with possibilities. It’s Star Wars! Holy cow, I can barely contain myself! I want to shout it from the mountaintops and skip through the church office with a happy glow and huge grin on my face.
I. cannot. wait!
The other day I saw a ‘70s-era black and white photo of the original cast of Star Wars in regular everyday clothes (not in costume). They all look so young – Harrison Ford (as dreamy as ever), Carrie Fisher (the icon Princess Leia), and Mark Hamill (the boyish Luke Skywalker). Also, the actors who played Chewbacca (over seven feet tall) and R2-D2 (a little person) – such a contrast! This picture got me more jazzed about the movie than ever! I think Obi-Wan Kenobi would say of me: “The nostalgia is strong with this one.”
I am a bit of a history buff. That means I’m drawn to events, ideas, reading material, and even movies that tie me into a bigger story. All this hype around Star Wars, for me, represents the reimagination of a classic tale tinged with the meaning of its original, especially as the now-older actors reprise their roles, roles we haven’t seen them play in over 30 years.
Every year, in this season, we get to reimagine the most important story ever told – the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God on earth; Emmanuel, God with us. And every year it changes just a bit for me. When I was a boy I could imagine Jesus being born, just like I was born. As I’ve grown older and started a family I identify more and more with Mary and Joseph. One year at the Christmas Eve worship service I reimagined the story through the eyes of the donkey that brought Mary to Bethlehem. I used a stuffed toy donkey as a prop and introduced him as Burrito, the small, Spanish burro. That gave my future father-in-law, whom I’d not yet met but was dating his daughter, to invite me to an after-worship family gathering with the words, “So, are you bringing your ass to the party?” I think he was talking about the toy. But who could tell?
Each year we are invited to reengage this wonderful reality – the truth that God is with us, that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Here’s how Madeleine L’Engle reimagined it in her poem “First Coming”:

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Rejoice, indeed. May the force be with you this Christmas.