Sermon Archives

Sunday, December 24, 2017
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)
The Reverend Areeta Bridgemohan, Curate
Let It Be With Me

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” are the signature opening lines of each Star Wars movie. The Star Wars movie series is wonderfully complex, including reflections on the nature of good and evil, power and its effects, the values of democracy and the brokenness of a variety of governance structures, family dynamics, the development of heroes and, underlying it all, the nature of the Force.

One of the Jedi Masters describes the force as: “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."[1]

In the movies, the Force is used by two main groups - the Jedi and the Sith, providing plenty of examples of the Force being used for good or evil.

On Dec 15th, the latest of the Star Wars episodes was released, called ‘The Last Jedi’.[2]

In preparation for watching it, I decided to watch all the previous movies, to get a sense of the arc of the whole story, starting with the first movie, called ‘The Phantom Menace’. Episode 1 introduces us to a number of important characters whose lives and legacies we follow through the subsequent 7 films.

One of the main characters is the young Anakin Skywalker.

Jedi master, Qui-Gon, stumbles across Anakin while their spaceship is stranded on a planet on the outer edges of the galaxy. Anakin is a precocious child and Qui-Gon quickly comes to realize there is something special about him.

The Jedi master takes a blood sample and the results show that Anakin has an astonishing level of midi-chlorians - the highest recorded level in galactic history (in the Star Wars world!) - surpassing all the Jedis, including Grand Master Yoda.[3]

Another clue that Anakin is different occurs when Qui-Gon asks Anakin’s mother about his father. Anakin’s mother reveals that no father was involved in his conception.

He was miraculously conceived, and Qui-Gon concludes that Anakin is a child of the Force, the chosen one, the one who will restore balance to all aspects of the force.

Miraculous birth narratives feature prominently in many traditions. But not all traditions have virgin births.

Joseph Campbell is a well-known scholar in comparative mythology and greatly influenced George Lucas, the writer and producer of Star Wars. Campbell claims that the virgin birth in Luke’s Gospel did not come from the Hebrew tradition. Instead, he argues that this story comes into Christianity by way of the Greek tradition which was full of stories of virgin births.[4]

In an interview, Bill Moyers asked Joseph Campbell about the meaning of the virgin birth in these traditions.

Campbell uses an Indian system of stages of spiritual development to explain its meaning. There are seven stages in this system, the first three of which are related to instincts most commonly associated with animals - the urge to eat, the urge to procreate and the urge for mastery.

The fourth centre is located in the heart, and marks a transition from the animal instincts to the spiritual - representing an opening towards compassion and love. The symbols used to represent the fourth centre are the lingam and the yoni - male and female organs - usually in gold - representing the birth of the spiritual being out of the animal being.[5]

Campbell makes it clear that this fourth centre does not reject the animal, physical aspect of our nature, but rather transcends it.

The virgin birth, while not the average method of conception for humans, affirms the value of our bodies, of our physical beings and allows us to make the extraordinary claim that there can be complete union between the human and the divine.

The miraculous birth story in our sacred story, sets out a pattern of life that Jesus initiates us into, that consistently values and affirms the material, impermanent aspects of ourselves and all creation and affirms that the divine infuses it all.

Mary is known in Greek as the theotokos, which literally means ‘God bearer’. In Luke’s story, she carries Jesus, God, in her womb and delivers Him out into the created world. Following this pattern of life, we too are called to say ‘yes’, like Mary did, to be ‘God bearers’ in this world. Our call as Christians is to bear Christ into this world - just as we promised we would in our baptisms - and God knows we need it!

During my last year of seminary, I did a placement at a church located in the heart of Toronto, right by the Eaton Centre, if you know where that is. This church was very active in social justice and outreach ministries. Although a tiny church, every Sunday morning before services they served breakfast to the homeless. Over the course of my placement, I had the privilege of getting to know some of the regular guests at the breakfast.

One of the guys I met there, whose nickname was Duckie, was friendly and open about his life.

He helped me understand the danger of sleeping in the streets, he introduced me to other guests and shared stories about his living situation in a government-subsidised housing complex and his motley collection of neighbours.

On my last Sunday at the breakfast ministry, just before Christmas Eve, he pulled out a large pair of men’s socks from his backpack that he had received at a social service agency and gave them to me. He said that they would be helpful in the cold.

I stood there for a moment, feeling quite uncomfortable as I held the socks, feeling that those socks would be much more useful to him than they would be to me.

As I contemplated giving them back to him, I remembered the words of one of my mentors, saying that sometimes the most loving and respectful thing we can do for another is to allow ourselves to receive the grace being offered.

In that unexpected gift, there was a gift of the material, but intertwined with the socks was the generosity and open-heartedness that alerts us to the presence of the Divine.

The Annunciation reminds us that God has chosen to bind God’s self with the human and the created order, inextricably intertwined with us. Creating sacred possibilities and holy encounters out of humble materials, weaving glimpses of the kingdom into the fabric of our lives.

And sometimes all we have to do is say: “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word.” Amen.


[1] http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/The_Force

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Last_Jedi

[3] http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Midi-chlorian

[4] Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, p. 215.

[5] Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, p. 219.