Tomorrow Hollywood will make history.
It’s the opening day of what could be the biggest film ever made.
Some are saying it could eventually earn $3 billion worldwide.
Advanced tickets have already earned more than $50 million. One of those tickets was purchased several weeks ago by a long-time fan. Gil is my beloved son-in-law and he’s been counting down the days like it was a space launch.
Well, it is, sort of.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past month, you know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally here. The wildly anticipated seventh film in the iconic franchise has reawakened (sorry) familiar words and images for those of us who remember seeing the first Star Wars in theaters 38 years ago.
We were introduced to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and a mysterious but very wise hooded hermit named Obi-Wan Kenobi. We met a couple of interesting robots (droids) called C-3PO and R2-D2.
And then there was Luke’s dark diabolical father, Darth Vader, whose true identity is hidden until a later movie.
I enjoyed holding my hand beneath my nose, breathing heavily and imitating James Earl Jones to my daughters – or my friends.
“Luke, I am your father,” I’d slowly intone, like a baritone on oxygen.
Now a whole new generation is excited about this enduring saga.
Why? What’s the hold? Why does this story captivate the imagination so powerfully?
Star Wars is nothing more – and certainly nothing less – than an old-fashioned morality tale in science fiction garb.
The forces of good are arrayed heroically against the forces of evil. Greed, ambition, power and control are all manifest in the struggle – so is courage, perseverance, sacrifice and nobility.
Set in space, the conflict takes on cosmic dimensions. It seems almost a battle for the universe.
At the center of the action there is the ubiquitous Force.
Obi-Wan – later known as Ben – explains this to young Luke:
“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi (a warrior) his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together”.
When once asked where he got the idea for the Force, Star Wars creator George Lucas mentioned a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and a cinematographer named Roman Kroitor – who later invented IMAX. McCulloch argued that human beings were nothing more than highly complex machines.
“Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.”
Lucas said his idea for the invisible but powerful and ever-present Force was “an echo of that phrase”.
In his artistic creative genius, here is man grasping for some transcendent meaning in his life. Through the medium of film he explores a higher power “behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us”.
Lucas may not have intended to create a spiritual film but in some important ways Star Wars has rich spiritual implications for the Christian. The fact that it is set in outer space and on other planets underscores the cosmic nature of our spiritual warfare. Paul reminds the Ephesians of the invisible forces of good and evil in heavenly realms that battle on a daily basis.
In the movie, the Jedi warrior is trained for this battle and joins it.
So too the Christian soldier is prepared and exhorted to battle evil. We are told to put on our spiritual armor and stand for that which is good and right. There is no more pervasive metaphor throughout the New Testament for the Christian life than that of conflict, struggle and victory.
It is the empowering presence of the Force within that makes all the difference. And so the exhortation “May the Force be with you” entered into the lexicon of American pop culture.
It is only fitting that this latest Star Wars film open one week before Christmas.
Recent events in our world have created an odd juxtaposition.
There is fear and sadness in the world as we celebrate joy. There is despair as we celebrate hope. There is doubt and uncertainty as we celebrate faith. There is hate as we celebrate love.
But the Dark Side can never win.
Paul told us that faith, hope and love would outlast doubt, despair and hate. He told us these virtues of the spirit would endure and never end.
At Christmastime we celebrate the promise and the hope of the greatest Force in the universe – the love of God.
Christmas tells us that the Light of God’s love shall one day vanquish the darkness of hate.
The baby in the manger is the King of kings before whom one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.
Long ago – before the worlds were made – in a heaven far, far away, God loved you and me.
No power of evil can ever separate us from the love of God. His love surrounds us and penetrates us.
God is with us.
He is our life’s force.
This is the true meaning of Christmas.