09 December 2016
Rebellions are built on hope
Carolyn Skinner is chief executive officer at Third Space Ministries.
“The world is coming undone”.
So begins the trailer for this year’s Christmas blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The film tells the story of unlikely heroes, a rogue group formed by the Rebellion, banding together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. Their mission is to prevent further evil and destruction.
You would be forgiven for thinking the opening line was an observation on the global events of 2016. It’s been a tumultuous year, there is so much to be concerned about, and so much evil that needs to be confronted. 2000 years ago, it may also have felt that the world was coming undone with the political landscape in Israel, with a paranoid tyrant on the throne, the killing of innocent children, the longing for a military Messiah. Today, the same reality brutally interrupts our Christmas celebrations. This is real life and if we remove evil from the Christmas story then we water down the significance of the message of Christmas.
Yet God had a plan. There was a mission, a rescue plan, to destroy evil through unlikely and surprising means. For light to burst through the darkness: a baby was born, Jesus entered our world. In this child, God Himself had come to do battle with the powers of evil.
“The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” John 1:14 (The Message)
“The life-light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:5 (The Message)
"We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope", declares Jyn Erso, the female hero of the film. The hope of the gospel is our distinctiveness as Christians. Whether it is how we respond to the headline news around the world, or a personal struggle, our confidence in the one who is greater, and our ability to see things with an eternal perspective, gives us a hope that marks us and shapes us. Our hope in the gospel is our greatest witness. It’s counter-cultural and brings light into dark situations.
Rogue One brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves. This is, and should be, the description of the Church: of evangelism, of discipleship, of the kingdom of God. We are an ordinary rogue band of Jesus followers, but through God are able to do extraordinary things, and are part of something more powerful and life-transforming than this world could ever offer.
"This is our chance to make a real difference. Are you with me?" The trailer ends with a rallying call and a challenge. If we are fuelled with the passion and hope of Christ then we should not allow apathy or fear or insignificance to stop us offering and pursuing the same challenge. This time of year is ripe with opportunities to share faith, show love, express hope with neighbours, colleagues and family. Let’s not allow the frenetic activity of the season to become an obstacle to us embracing this challenge.
Christians live in the overlap of the ages, between the three stages of Advent. The first Advent is the coming of Jesus to earth. The second Advent is Jesus coming into our lives. The third Advent is the final return of Jesus to earth. We are living in the time between times. We are waiting again for the return of Christ, when all things will be made right. In the meantime, we may be ordinary, but we are God's ambassadors, His unlikely band of followers, and we have hope.
Are you with me?