It’s a time of eager anticipation, as across the world people of all ages and backgrounds count down to a very special day. Yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is only three days away from release. J J Abrams, the hopes and fears of all the years (of Star Wars fans) are met in thee on Thursday night. Of course, it’s another season too, that of Advent, which is supposed to be a time of reflection and anticipation for Christ’s birth. But perhaps the two aren’t so different…
Being a Star Wars fan has its own rituals of preparation. One such ritual is the movie marathon ahead of the new instalment. (Personally I’ve been watching the “despecialized” editions which seek to restore the films as close as possible to their cinematic release, minus Lucas’ later alterations and CGI additions).
Another aspect is the tightrope between the Light side of enjoying the trailers and publicity on the one hand, and the Dark side of outright spoilers on the other. If you think it’s bad trying to decide whether the second weekend of December is too early to put up the Christmas tree, then try facing the constant barrage of trailers, teasers and headlines for The Force Awakens.
Christians face a similar challenge. With the consumer calendar beginning Christmas sometime back in September, it’s easy for Advent to lose its distinct character, especially in a non-liturgical evangelical church like the one I attend. In an effort to make the most of Christmas, we put up our decorations and have our carol services, Secret Santas, work Christmas parties and so on, all the way through December. Poor old Advent gets lost in it all, like Biggs Darklighter on George Lucas’ cutting room floor.
But just as many Star Wars fans have been going to desperate efforts to avoid spoilers, so too is there value in holding back on the tinsel and enjoying a time of preparation before the plunge into Christmas. Although we know the Christmas story already and don’t have to worry about “spoilers” in that sense, perhaps we short circuit the impact of the story by rushing to Christmas and forgetting Advent. For Christians, Advent can be a time both of looking back at the “story so far” of what God has done, and forward to the hope that he will return to complete the redemption of the world that began with the arrival of Jesus the God-child.
Whether it’s celebrating the birth of Christ, or the rebirth of Star Wars, a little patience in letting the story unfold in its own time can go a long way to increasing our joy.