Forty years ago, Star Wars hooked millions of people and became part of American culture. As prequels and sequels of the original movies continue to be released with great box-office success, the Star Wars franchise remains an unstoppable cinematic force.
While the special effects are spectacular, it was the Star Wars story— extreme evil, great good, desperate danger, genuine love, hopeless odds, and costly sacrifice—that attracted me from the beginning. Story elements such as these captivate the imagination and linger in the mind long after the screen goes dark or a book goes back on the shelf.
Truly great stories remind us of something borrowed from a larger story. They echo through history and resonate with something deep within our soul. That larger story is God’s story—the greatest story ever told—and the climax happens at Christmas.
Star Wars’ unlikely characters have always fascinated me. The heroes are nobodies from nowhere, insignificant and irrelevant individuals as far as the world is concerned. Yet they change history.
Like Star Wars, the key characters in the Christmas story are nonentities: powerless peasants who live far from the halls of influence. A homeless couple with a powerless child born in an obscure village. Yet in fiction and real life, things are not always as they seem. These seemingly rag-tag nobodies are part of a web of cosmic events they cannot understand nor resist and take center stage in God’s kingdom.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
While the powerful may have yawned at the birth of one more impoverished baby, heaven burst forth with uncontainable celebration at the birth of Jesus. And who did the angels invite to their party? Not the powerful, but lowly shepherds.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
In what is known as the Magnificat or Mary’s Song, our Lord’s mother echoes this biblical reality.
He [God] has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. (Luke 1:51-52)
Peter reminds us of the same truth and challenges our far-too-frequent assessment of our own importance.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:5-6)
So the next time we think, Who am I? What can someone like me do? let’s remember who God chooses to use. And the next time we think, I’m really somebody!, let’s remember this reality.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)