The Force Awakens: The Light Shines in the Darkness

John 1:1-18

I will never forget the feeling of sitting at the old Hub Theater in Rochelle watching the first Star Wars Movie. I was sixteen. I was not then, and am certainly not now, especially a fan of science fiction, but the epic battle portrayed in the story caught my imagination and stirred something within me: some recognition of truth and heroism and hope. And yes, the power of darkness.

I’m not sure you can be alive in the part of the world I call home today and have missed the hype over the opening of the most recent Star Wars movie. With so many others, I wanted to see it, but I was afraid I would find it hard to follow. It has been 38 years since I was mesmerized by the first one and truth be told, I haven’t seen every one since. I don’t know what happened. I got busy. Or distracted. Or something.
So the other day when I learned that my sister Martha had seen it, I asked her if I would ‘get it.’ I wondered if I would be lost since I had been away from the story for so long. “Oh,” she said, “You’ll get it. It’s just good versus evil all over again.”
And sure enough. When I saw it this week-end, I realized she was right. It IS good versus evil all over again. Some of the more science fiction-y parts escaped me. And the older I get, I find myself becoming more and more non-violent, so I found little gratifying in the lives lost — even if the enemy was mostly wrapped in anonymous storm trooper white.
As I watched, I found myself reflecting that not a whole lot has changed since 1977 when I was first perhaps deeply recognizing the darkness which too much marks our world — except perhaps the role of women in the film is much stronger and the special effects are that much more spectacular. In terms of overarching themes reflected on the screen, however, it is all much the same. For evil is still profoundly resilient. And this is so as well: we continue to cling to the hope that the forces for good are stronger still.
And no, not much has changed since John first put together the words which are ours to hear once more on the 2nd Sunday of Christmas. There was and there is light and darkness. Good and evil were embattled when John recorded this beautiful poetry and clearly, as John had it and as you and I know so well, this has been true for all of recorded history. I have seen it to be so again in these last days:

For I find my heart aching in these past days to hear that two young men who returned to Chicago for Christmas break — students from our own Northern Illinois University— were killed by gun fire while home.

There is still light and darkness. Good and evil. And one wonders if the light will prevail.

I have spent a whole lot of time in this otherwise festive season walking alongside those whose grief is heavy. No matter their age, the one who died always died too soon and those left behind are left to sort out life without them.

Yes, one wonders when or if the light will prevail for we live in a world where darkness threatens still to have the last word.

War still rages in too many parts of the world and innocents are affected in ways that we cannot ignore their plight.

Oh yes, we wonder still if the Light will have the last word or not. 

And yet, we who cling to the Light keep on pointing to it. Even Queen Elizabeth in her annual Christmas Message pointed to these words in John’s Gospel:

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…”

She spoke these words as she reflected on the shared moments of darkness the world has experienced in this last year. You can watch and listen here: The Queen’s Christmas Message 2015.

Indeed, we all continue to hang on to the promises of God as we hear them again today. In spite of all evidence to the contrary:

The light prevails.

Good wins.

God wins.

And yes, as you might expect this was true in the Star Wars movie which was mine to enjoy a few days back. Light wins.
But even so I recognize this in this particular story and in even more so in life as I have witnessed it: There are casualties along the way. And through it all, those engaged in this epic battle are making choices. Between light and darkness, yes. But also between responding to the impulse of fear or standing up and moving forward in courage and in hope. (I expect the latter are simply the light and darkness within us, wouldn’t you say?)

I do have to say this, though. Many will go to this movie to enjoy the special effects. And yes, many will be utterly convinced (if we are not already) that violence is the only way to combat violence. And yet, it seemed to me that the most powerful parts of the story were those which reflected love and sacrifice. For one’s beloved, yes. And for one’s beloved child.

For this is always so. The message of today’s Gospel is that the power of Light is not ours to use to destroy one’ enemies. Rather, it is always ours to invite and encourage and somehow enable others to follow that Light which brings Life. Even those who seem to have been consumed by the power of darkness. Yes, even those. For in the end? Light itself destroys the darkness. Every time.

  • Certainly others will address the theological parallels and themes of the latest Star Wars movie better than I. If you have seen it, how would you modify what I have offered here?
  • It is easy to find signs of darkness in the world today. Where have you seen evidence of the light over which the darkness has not prevailed?
  • For me the most meaningful parts of the movie are where love and sacrifice are joined. This seems to be the place where light prevails, even though they are marked by profound suffering. And this is our Gospel Story, too, is it not?

6 comments

  1. Janet, remember this. The late Dr.Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces was the inspiration for SW:A New Hope( aka the FIRST movie). I am so looking forward to seeing this one. Plan to go 1/8

  2. Working on chores yesterday I turned on the TV to see they were running another 30+ year old movie about the fight between good and evil, or maybe silent non-violence versus the powers that be, "Ghandi." I watched the first 20 minutes, rapt, irritated at the long commercial pauses, and resolved to find it and watch it intact now that I am much more aware of the South African politics in place when he started work as a young lawyer there. To one supporter willing to take up arms in a justified cause, he said ,"This is a cause which I too would be willing to die for. But not one I would be willing to kill for." And then I watched his courage in not killing. Truly amazing. Light over dark. As the days get longer, I will be thinking of his light over darkness as well.

    • Janet Hunt says:

      "This is a cause which I would be willing to die for. But not one I would be willing to kill for." There it is. Thank you, Pat, for this amazing example and parallel. Light over darkness, indeed.

  3. margeclements says:

    I am reminded of a new song by Contemporary Christian artist Matthew West. Here are the lyrics:
    In my weakest moment I see you
    Shaking your head in disgrace
    I can read the disapointment
    Written all over your face

    Here comes those whispers in my ear
    Saying who do you think you are
    Looks like you're on your own from here
    Cause grace could never reach that far

    But, in the shadow of that shame
    Beat down by all the blame
    I hear you call my name sayin it's not over
    And my heart starts to beat
    So loud now, drowning out the doubt
    I'm down but I'm not out

    There's a war between guilt and grace
    And they're fighting for a sacred space
    But I'm living proof
    Grace wins every time

    No more lying down in death's defeat
    Now I'm rising up in victory
    Singing hallelujah
    Grace wins every time

    Words can't describe the way it feels
    When mercy floods a thirsty soul
    A broken side begins to heal
    And grace returns what guilt has stole

    And, in the shadow of that shame
    Beat down by all the blame
    I hear you call my name sayin it's not over
    And my heart starts to beat
    So loud now, drowning out the doubt
    image: http://static.urx.io/units/web/urx-unit-loader.gif

    I'm down but I'm not out

    There's a war between guilt and grace
    And they're fighting for a sacred space
    But I'm living proof
    Grace wins every time

    No more lying down in death's defeat
    Now I'm rising up in victory
    Singing hallelujah
    Grace wins every time

    For the prodigal son, grace wins
    For the woman at the well, grace wins
    For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
    For always and forever, grace wins
    For the lost out on the street, grace wins
    For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
    For the theif on the cross, grace wins
    For a world that it lost

    There's a war between guilt and grace
    And they're fighting for a sacred space
    But I'm living proof
    Grace wins every time

    No more lying down in death's defeat
    Now I'm rising up in victory
    Singing hallelujah
    Grace wins every time

    Every time
    I'm living proof grace wins every time

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