Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The New Nativity?

For our early Christmas Eve service at 4:30 tomorrow we will create an ad hoc Nativity scene with costumes handed out as children arrive. The tableau is made up of whoever shows up and is a simple way to tell the story involving kids. There was a day when most churches could mount a pageant a la Prayer for Owen Meany, but it is a stretch for many mainline congregations now. Children attending church are as rare as fake donkeys' teeth.

Not so for the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. Even thought the original Star Wars film was released nearly forty years ago --essentially two generations of moviegoers-- there are parents and children flocking to The Force Awakens in record numbers for the first four days of a motion picture. And guess what. Adults and children are showing up in costume as though this is some sort of space pageant. Theatres are banning masks and light sabres (security and safety issues) but there is a lot of creativity out there.

We seem to need a narrative, a story for our lives, and when we remove or diminish one, we seem to crave another. It's all good fun, but it makes me a little sad. The story of God-with-us in the person of a helpless infant still speaks to me deeply, and I feel that it still matters for our world. It is a message for "right here" rather than "out there," a message for transformed hearts and a changed world. It's strange when you think about it. The knock on Christianity is that it is too other-worldly. What is Star Wars.

We will celebrate Christ's birth and if we're fortunate we'll have a Mary and Joseph, and a few angels and shepherds to adore the baby.


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