Monday, December 1, 2014

Lord of the Rings and Advent

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2 The Lord of the Rings trilogy takes place as the darkness is beginning to spread. For those who know the movie, the eye of Sauron is calling the ring of power back. Sauron’s power and army is growing. Orcs and strange folk are on the move throughout Middle-earth. Darkness is falling over the land. Likewise the starting point for Advent is darkness. We remember the people of Israel longing for a Messiah. Their hope seemed slim. Despair was near. They were people under occupation. In our own time, the days are growing shorter. There are still dark powers at work around us: racism, addictions, disease, wars, death, pain, etc. With constant media coverage it is a wonder we don’t all descend into at least some moments of despair. On the one hand our culture almost glamorizes such dark powers and at the other end we like to live in full denial mode. Some have pontificated this as one of the reasons for Christmas-creep. We skip right over the difficult and painful to the jolly and cheerful. Yet we know for many the holiday season is often not joyful and cheerful no matter how many carols we sing or parties we attend. Grief is still close at hand, people are still battling major illness, families still fight, poverty continues, unemployment lingers, and on the list goes. Though there are many larger-in-size characters throughout Middle-earth from trolls, to elves, wizards, orcs and the such, hope comes in the form of hobbits. Hobbits, or half-lings, who are small in stature, are nimble of feet, and humble. Though others pretend or imagine what they could do with the power of the one ring, Frodo the hobbit frequently confesses that he struggles to complete his mission of destroying the ring of power in the flames of Mount Doom. What aids Frodo the most is the courage and bravery of his other hobbit friends Sam, Pippin, and Merry (along with a few others). Hope for the people of Middle-earth comes through the seemingly insignificant, the weak, and the humble - hobbits.
The connection then to the hope of Advent is not that far of stretch. Advent meets us in the dark realities of life. When all seems dark, in the middle of our grief, pain, and fear we are called by Advent to wait, expect, and hope. While the secular and non-secular celebration of Christmas comes through the festivities of light shows, carols, and parties, Advent focuses us on the coming of the infant Christ born in the humble location of an animal feeding trough. We are invited to slow down, reflect, and meditate on the mystery of the incarnation: God would meet us in the meekness of a manger. Much as a hobbit would be easy to overlook in combating the powerful forces of Sauron, so would an infant born in a manger. Both are ironic pictures of power and strength. Though we continue to live in a dark world, we need not despair, there is hope promised to use in the sign of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Will we take the intentional time needed to made room in our lives that this power would be cultivated in us?