The Stories We Tell

 It has been ten and half years since the last Star Wars movie was released. With this in mind, it's easy to understand why enthusiasts are thrilled this week with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the series. I am certainly a fan of the movies, even if I don't quite rise to the level of a true Star Wars enthusiast. By this I mean that I wasn't at opening night with countless others, but I do plan to see the new release sometime in the next few weeks.
     The first movie was released in 1977, the year my wife and I were married, and I have followed and been fascinated with how the story line has developed ever since. As a person who loves to reflect on culture, I also find myself curious about the overwhelming popularity of the entire Star Wars series. There are no doubt many reasons for the grip that Star Wars has on peoples' imaginations over these almost four decades, but I have come to the conclusion that there is one very basic and obvious reason that this special series of movies is so appealing. We all love a good story.
     Our love of stories starts when we are young. Our two-year-old grandson reminds me of this when he utters the phrase, "Tell me just one more story, please," every time we read books together. Star Wars fans of all ages have been uttering the phrase, "Make us just one more movie," for a decade, which is their way of asking for one more story. And now their wishes are coming true. Good stories capture our imaginations as they reflect on life's deepest themes-good vs. evil, hope vs. despair, triumph over adversity, love conquering all, and exploring questions of values, character, and true identity. Stories do this all, while entertaining and unifying us at the same time.
     Christian people around the world will soon gather together to celebrate Christmas. Jewish people gathered earlier this month to celebrate Hanukah. At the center of both of these celebrations is the sharing of stories because telling stories is what people of faith do when they gather. Jewish people told stories earlier this month when they gathered to celebrate Hanukah-they told the stories of what happened long ago. And Christians will gather this next week, also telling stories of long ago, stories of wise men, stories of angles and shepherds, and the story young mother who "gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). These stories are so central to Christmas that they will be brought to life and acted out in countless Christmas pageants, in churches large and small, across the Christian world.
     Friends and families will continue their Christmas celebrations as they gather in homes to exchange gifts and share meals, and once again, stories will be shared. Loved ones who are no longer with us will be made present through the sharing of stories and memories as well. Special traditions that span generations will be reenacted in deed and story. These stories are not, to quote the classic opening line of every Star Wars movie, "from a galaxy far, far away" but stories that are, in fact, very near and dear to us. They are as near and dear to us as the people we have loved and the people we love during this holiday season. And as you gather to share stories, may you find great joy and hope in the story of the One who "came to dwell among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
   This column is sent out every Friday morning and so the next edition will be sent on Christmas morning. Because I expect that most of you will not be reading your email on Christmas, we at Living Compass want to now wish you all a most Merry Christmas.