As I wrote in a previous post, watching Star Wars VIII was a very spiritual experience for me. One of the most powerful moments of the movie happens in the end when all hope seems to have been snuffed out but a little stable boy force-grabs a broom and we know that the Resistance isn’t over (it’s not a spoiler because it doesn’t give away the plot). When I saw that moment, it seemed like the perfect expression of Advent in an age when the church itself has mostly abandoned its manger baby in order to align itself with the First Order. The Force remains sovereign, no matter how many dreadnoughts the First Order has and no matter how pathetically decimated the Resistance has become. And the Force belongs to stable boys and scavengers, not generals or supreme leaders who think they can control it.
I think the Christian gospel is the same way. It doesn’t belong to those of us who have never slept in mangers. It belongs to the shepherds who were the first to receive the good news and kneel in the filthy stable before a king who looked like any other disposable third world urchin baby. We are invited to be a part of the story of Jesus’ salvation of the world if we’re willing to kneel at the side of his manger and submit ourselves to the leadership of the disposable third world urchins whom Jesus chose to incarnate himself among. But the story isn’t ours to control and colonize in accommodation of our first-world existential needs.
Jesus’ birth is good news to the world’s outsiders. It is terrible news to Herod, Israel’s pseudo-puppet-king, and the religious authorities who would eventually see themselves as having no choice but to crucify him. Those of us who are insiders today don’t have to massacre newborn babies like Herod did to undo the threat of a challenger to our thrones. All we have to do is package Jesus’ gospel in a way that undoes the specificity of his incarnation, which makes third-world scavengers and stable boys first, while first-world people like us are last. If we turn Jesus’ mission into a generic assembly line of single-serving salvation, there’s no need to get our knees dirty in front of his manger, and there’s no need to change anything about the ordering of our world in which we live like princes while scavengers and stable boys barely survive if at all.
In any case, I’m rooting for the stable boys and scavengers. I’ve decided that I’m going to pay more attention to what they’re saying about God than the officially credentialed public theologians. I really think the future of the gospel belongs to them and whatever church continues to exist will be gathered around them.
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