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A Fitting End
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star wars the rise of skywalker theatrical poster 1000 ebc74357 640x985Well, it’s almost here.


No, I’m not talking about Christmas, though that is coming fast upon this preacher like an out-of-control Polar Express.


Of course I’m talking about the latest “movie to end all movies” in the Star Wars saga. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens this week in theaters and while I won’t be there on opening night with the rest of the nerd horde, I will be seeing it sometime over the weekend. Episode IX promises to bring a fitting end to the galactic soap opera that has been the Skywalker family, but given the fact that Disney now runs the franchise, I have my doubts.


We’ve already got a Star Wars TV series (streaming only), and it won’t be long before another epic trilogy of trilogies gets under way. There’s money to be made, after all, and Disney knows that nerds like me will gladly hand it over, and over, and over to see what happens next, even if that means we hate it. Episode VIII, The Last Jedi was a massive disappointment that stretched the franchise’s credibility, what with bombs being dropped in space, and ships running out of gas, and space horses, and, well…it was a problem. I hope that this one is better.


I have to say that I loved the original Star Wars movie before it became “Episode IV.” There was something about sitting in the old Penn Theater in Butler, PA, as a 13 year-old and seeing that massive Star Destroyer come gliding across the screen in the opening shot. I was hooked. The whole thing could’ve stopped there and it still would have been my favorite movie ever. The Empire Strikes Back was also excellent, but it required a sequel to tie up the story, which became Return of the Jedi–but then there were Ewoks. Ugh. That’s when the franchise went off the rails.


It seems that these days Hollywood has a tough time ending a story effectively. If a movie does well, it inevitably has to continue the story in order to cash in, meaning that storytelling is less about the story itself and more about the marketing tie-ins. Notice how many old movies are being remade and old TV shows rebooted as well. In the midst of all the new technology in movie-making, they’ve forgotten that the most important thing is the story.


The juxtaposition of a new Star Wars movie and Christmas gets me thinking about the story that we tell over and over again from the Scriptures. Every year, Mary and Joseph will be on their way to Bethlehem. Every year, the baby is born and laid in a manger. Every year, shepherds worship him. Every year, preachers struggle to find a new angle for telling the story.


But the thing about the story of Christmas is that it’s a complete story and, more importantly, it’s a story that invites us to find ourselves within it. The New Testament isn’t a pieced-together sequel to the Old Testament, for example–it’s the intentional movement to a climax in the coming of Jesus. And after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story then moves out into the world where, for centuries, people have been living out the implications of what it means for God to become human and redefine humanity in the process. In other words, it’s a story that one cannot just buy tickets to and observe–it’s a story that has to be lived to be understood.


That’s why we preachers keep telling it. No, there aren’t any blasters or spaceships, but it’s a story that forces you to consider how you’ll respond to it. Star Wars nerds will respond to movies with a review–the Jesus story calls us to respond with faith and with our whole lives. The stakes are a lot higher than there are for a Hollywood blockbuster.


So, yeah, I’ll be at the Interquest theater with our son Rob to watch this one (as his been our tradition), but I’m actually more excited about next Tuesday when I get to tell the most important story of all again to an expectant crowd. I hope you’ll join us at 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, or 9:00pm on Christmas Eve.


The Force may not be with us, but the Holy Spirit most certainly will be!


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