Category Archives: Hope

Justice League – Review

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In 2013 Zack Snyder, DC Comics and Warner Brothers started a journey to bring the characters of the comics to screen in a way they had not been seen before. Backed by Christopher Nolan as an executive producer, they began with Man of Steel. Superman’s origin was retold for the first time since 1978, asking the question, “What would it actually be like to actually have this being on our world?”. The saga continued with Batman v Superman, introducing us to a Batman on the edge becoming the villain and an appearance by the enigma known as Wonder Woman. In the end they save the world but lose one of their own. Although Snyder did not direct Wonder Woman, he helped write the story which bookends in the present, to tie into the culmination of all this set up in Justice League.

The Story

The plot of the movie is simple, after the death of Superman, Mother Boxes leftover from a failed invasion by Steppenwolf begin ringing. They sound that the earth is vulnerable and it’s time for Steppenwolf to return to finish what he started. Bruce Wayne has run into the Parademons, scouts for the invasion to come and begins actively recruiting the meta-humans revealed in Batman v Superman to stop what is coming.

Light Shines in the Darkness (Spoilers)

There is a real beauty to the simplicity of the story and it’s themes. Each one of these characters is hiding in some way. Diana’s always been there for the world when it needed her, but she shut herself off from being that inspiration, light and from true human connection after the loss of Steve. Victor Stone (Cyborg) feels lost in the ones and zeros he is now constantly bombarded with since one of the Mother Boxes gave him the ability to be forever connected to all things digital. Barry Allen is socially awkward, living and working with only one goal, to find a way to prove is father innocent of his mother’s murder. Arthur Curry embraces neither the sea or the land, unsure of who he is and still stinging from the perceived abandonment of his mother.

Lastly there is Bruce. He’s hidden so long behind the pain of his parents death, it’s made him, in his own words, less human. He’s hid behind the cowl, which almost completely consumed him. It took Clark to show him the way. Superman’s sacrifice awakens something in Bruce and he begins to slowly reflect the light that Clark had shone so brightly, to others. He shines that light on Arthur and Barry who join the team. He challenges Diana to remember who she is and what she was meant to be and in turn she’s able to nurture that light in Victor.

Coming together, the realize they are not enough. They work to bring Superman back to life with the help of a Mother Box, knowing that he’s truly the world’s only hope. Clark does not take well to being brought back to life until Lois shows up. It’s a touching scene as he’s flown them back to the farm, and they talk in the dawn’s early light. Hope and light are back and in the end he returns to help the team save earth. What makes this so poignant is that it feels like the fulfillment of Jor-El’s prophecy to Clark all the way back in Man of Steel,

You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

The world we live in has been darker of late. Justice League reminds us that it is only together that we can dive back the darkness. Not through the lock-step unity that Steppenwolf would bring, but through the individual gifts that we’ve been given, working in harmony with one another for the greater good, the sacrificial good.

Characters

This is the best thing about the film. Each one of these characters comes off the screen kind of perfectly. Ezra Miller as Flash distinguishes himself nicely from the one on television. He’s young, inexperience and unsure of his abilities. Cyborg played by Ray Fisher is understated and yet it’s perfect for the role. He’s a young man struggling to find the gift in the tragedy that’s befallen him. Jason Momoa is excellent as the guff man of the ocean who’s just trying to find some meaning in life.

Ben Affleck’s Batman has grown tremendously since Batman v Superman, making good on his promise to not fail Clark in death. Affleck portrays the older Batman trying to learn how to play well with others perfectly. Gal Gadot, what more can be said about how good she is as Wonder Woman? She play’s the progression from who she is at the end of Batman v Superman and in light of the revelations of Wonder Woman so well. Henry Cavill as Superman is a vision. Superman has arrived in all the glory that we’ve been waiting to see from the beginning of Man of Steel. His arc has brought him fully to becoming the icon of truth and justice we all love. Each one of these characters make me want more of each of them. You’re left longing for each of them to be given their next solo outing as well as their next team mission.

The Movie

This movie is by no means perfect. It does feel rushed at only 2 hours. There is a lot happening and it does seem like a bit more time with the stories of the villain, Victor, Barry and Arthur could have helped the audience connect even more with the story. The villain is one note, but it does leave us with more time to focus on the heroes and their journeys to becoming a team. There are places where you wish the effects team had more time with the CGI to refine it and make it better. The best comparison that I can make would be the DC animated films that have come out over the last few years or some of your favorite episodes of Justice League United, if you liked those, you’ll like this. Overall, what wins you over is the team, their dynamic and the charisma they bring to each moment. Justice League is rated 4 out of 5 resurrections.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Review

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“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”

These words are the first thing that anyone ever saw of Star Wars as the film opened in 1977 and now Gareth Edwards has imbued them fully in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Hope Anew

The Rebellion’s struggle just got worse, as it learns that the Empire has created a world-killing weapon named the Death Star. The Rebellion finds itself on the knife’s edge between hope and despair. The council of the Rebellion cannot decide what to do. Do they risk it all by trying to steal the plans, or do they resign themselves to defeat and despair? Jyn challenges the council, “What chance do we have? The question is what choice”. She implores the council to remember that if they do nothing then they’ve sealed the fate of the galaxy and that evil this great cannot go unopposed. It brings to mind Edmund Burke’s famous saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” She encourages them with a refrain Cassian Andor said to her earlier in the movie, “Rebellions are built on hope”. Hope changes everything, it reminds people that the way it is, is not how it has to be. Hope is the spark that, if kindled, creates the fire of change. Change is possible, but it takes sacrifice, determination and some times, lives to see it come about. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” It takes faith, faith that a difference can be made, which births hope and it’s all because the love of something greater than themselves leads them to live out the truth that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

The beauty of the film is that hope is not just a figment of the heroes imaginations. The Force seems quite active, even without the Jedi. It’s moving in mysterious ways and bringing people together that can make a difference. This band of rogues does the impossible, one chance at a time, succeeding in their goal and setting in motion something that will see the end of the Empire.

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The Movie

Gareth Edwards made a Star Wars movie that feels completely different and yet utterly familiar, all at the same time. Like The Clone Wars, Edwards uses cinematic inspirations to pull in the war movie genre and make it a Star Wars movie, emphasis on the war. The nods to great war films of the past are all there and they work perfectly. On top of that you feel the “Star Wars” seeping out of every single frame. The Ghost from Star Wars Rebels can be seen at least 4 times, General Sydulla is called for over the coms at Yavin 4, the sets feel like they came out of a lost arc of The Clone Wars, Saw Gerrera has an important role and so much more. The point here is that Edwards lovingly knits together the history of the Prequel and the Original trilogy and it’s seamless.

Star Wars, when it’s at it’s best, is stretching what it means to be Star Wars by taking other genres and telling a story in the Star Wars universe that aligns with the themes of the saga. Edwards achievement is nothing short of incredible, the movie feels like the Maker’s fingerprints are all over it and it’s the highest compliment that could be paid to the movie.

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The characters are outstanding. K-2so is the best new droid since R2 and Jyn, Cassian, Chirrut, Baze and Bhodi are all welcome additions to the Star Wars canon. Darth Vader’s scenes are chilling (and let’s stop here and just geek out completely that Vader’s castle is finally on screen!) and perfectly played, just enough to leave you wanting more.

The music by Giacchino feels like a welcome addition to the Star Wars franchise, it’s much like The Clone Wars music and only references familiar themes in snippets yet that’s a good thing. The movie needed it’s own identity and the themes he created feel familiar and distinct, perfectly matching the spirit of the movie.

I’ll get personal, this movie is everything I wanted a new Star Wars movie to be. Pushing the boundaries of what it means to be Star Wars while at the same time respecting the history and the franchise as a whole. Here’s to hoping the rumors of Edwards wanting to direct a Kenobi movie are true. Rogue One is rated 4.5 upside down Death Stars out of 5.

Side note, if you did not read the book Catalyst by James Luceno, I highly recommend it. It is the lead-in novel for the movie and it does a fantastic job of filling in everything you’d want to know about Krennic, the Ersos and the Death Star.

 

The Passion of Doctrine

I have been slowly reading though Dorothy Sayers work, Letters to a Diminished Church. Her very first chapter is about the drama of the incarnation of Christ and what sets it apart in human history. It felt like the right time to share it, just a few days before Easter, to meditate on what it is that we celebrate and just how incredible it is. I love the way she brings to life the doctrine to life.

nativity“The Church’s answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: that Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”— he was God.

“Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and though it well worthwhile.”

“Christianity is, of course, not the only religion that has found the best explanation of human life in the idea of an incarnate and suffering god. The Egyptian Osiris died and rose again; Aeschylus in his play, The Eumenides, reconciled man to God by the theory of a suffering Zeus. But in most theologies, the god is supposed to have suffered and died in some remote and mythical period of prehistory. The Christian story, on the other hand, starts off briskly in St. Matthew’s account with a place and date: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King.” St. Luke, still more practically and prosaically, pins the thing down by a reference to a piece of government finance. God, he says, was made man in the year when Caesar Augustus was taking a census in connection with a scheme of taxation. Similarly, we might date an event by saying that it took place in the year that Great Britain went off the gold standard. About thirty-three years later (we are informed), God was executed, for being a political nuisance, “under Pontius Pilate”—much as we might say, “when Mr. Johnson-Hicks was Home Secretary.” It is as definite and concrete as all that.”

“Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously— there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of divine character walking and talking among us—and what did we find to do with him? The common people, indeed, “heard him gladly”; but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of his friends to hand him over quietly to the police, and we tried him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, “thanking God we were rid of a knave.” All this was not very creditable to us, even if he was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless, crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about him, it was more discreditable still, for the man we hanged was God Almighty.”

“So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull— this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.”scandal-of-the-cross

“If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach- and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had “a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.”

“And the third day he rose again.” What are we to make of this? One thing is certain: if he were God and nothing else, his immortality means nothing to us; if he was man and no more, his death is no more important than yours or mine. But if he really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too; and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person. The Church binds us to no theory about the exact composition of Christ’s Resurrection Body. A body of some kind there had to be since man cannot perceive the Infinite otherwise than in terms of space and time. It may have been made from the same elements as the body that disappeared so strangely from the guarded tomb, but it was not that old, limited mortal body, though it was recognizably like it. In any case, those who saw the risen Christ remained persuaded that life was worth living and death a triviality—and attitude curiously unlike that of the modern defeatist, who is firmly persuaded that life is a disaster and death (rather inconsistently) a major catastrophe.”

“Now, nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. God (says the Church) has created us perfectly free to disbelieve in him as much as we choose. If we do disbelieve, then he and we must take the consequences in a world ruled by cause and effect. The Church says further that man did, in fact, disbelieve, and that God did, in fact, take the consequences. All the same, if we are going to disbelieve a thing, it seems on the whole to be desirable that we should first find out what, exactly, we are disbelieving. Very well, then: “The right Faith is, that we believe that Jesus Christ is God and man, Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Who although he be God and man yet is he not two, but one Christ.” There is the essential doctrine, of which the whole elaborate structure of Christian faith and morals is only the logical consequence.”

“Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in the world’s history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the Resurrection.”*empty_tomb11

*From pages 2-7 of Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers.

I’m a Christian Hypocrite

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I was thinking about this today, because it’s a thing people say in response to not liking Christians or not wanting to be one or for leaving the faith; “Those people are such hypocrites”. Matt Chandler really says it best I think in response to that;

The good news of the gospel is hypocrites are welcome. That’s the good news, because there’s no one in this room who’s not hypocritical. No one. Whether you’re completely secular and humanistic or whether you’ve been a person of faith since… I mean, Mama shot you out on the altar. You don’t remember a day you weren’t in church. You are inconsistent and you are hypocritical. No one is clean on that. No one.

The difference between those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ is Christ’s perfection carries our imperfection so between the tension of perfection and hypocrisy we have a perfect God who says, “I paid the bill for that stumbling and bumbling. Yeah, he’s an idiot. Doesn’t that make me spectacular if I can save that dude, if I can save that woman? How inconsistent and foolish they are, and yet I can still rescue them.” Isn’t that where God is most glorified, not in saving the pretty people? So now you have this idea of hypocrisy.

Here’s what, unfortunately, Christians want to do: Christians need to know that and walk in a lot more grace and a lot more compassion with a lot more lack of “judgmentalness” on people than they walk in now, because you’re not there. Even though you might act like you’re there or think you’re there, your response to the fallings and failings of others should be patience, grace, compassion, empathy, prayerfulness, and a steadfast friendship that says, “I love you and I’m walking with you until God opens up your eyes and opens up your heart.” So what hypocrisy or lack of perfection on our way to should create in the unbeliever is a hope that God can work in them, and for the believer, it should increase compassion, grace, and empathy.

Now when it comes to addressing the hypocrisy in our lives, the way not to do it is to look at your behaviors and try to make them more consistent. Has anybody ever fallen in that trap? You start spotting places you’re not quite consistent, and so what you begin to do is you begin to work at being more consistent at behavior, language, you can fill in the blank there, but you have this area of your life. You’re going, “I need to be more consistent so I’m not a hypocrite,” and you start to kind of pour into those behaviors, pour into those modifications, pour into those kinds of things, but in reality, the battle over hypocrisy does not take place on an external behavioral level; it takes place in the heart.”

In the end shouldn’t we be thankful that went we walk into a church that we are all hypocrites, we are surrounded by them. Man, I’d hate to walk in and feel like I had to have it all together to be there. Why is it that we’re afraid to show that we’re not perfect? Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest”. We cannot and will not ever be perfect. So yes, I’m a Christian hypocrite, I always will be. I’ll never be perfect or live out perfectly my faith. And honestly, thank God that’s not on me, to be perfect, to save myself. If it was, well I and you would be lost forever. I pray that God works in my heart so that I become less hypocritical and more like him. I pray he gives me grace to love everyone, no matter where they are on their journey with God, especially when they, like me have hypocrisy rear its ugly head in our lives. Thank you God for loving hypocrites because if you didn’t we’d all be lost.

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A New Business Strategy: Treating Employees Well

flourNORWICH, Vt.–Call centers are not, typically, very happy places—especially around the holidays. Workers have quotas to make, and often sit in bleak cubicles, headsets on, plowing through calls from stressed shoppers, as they count down the minutes until lunch.

But the employees in this call center in Vermont are rosy-cheeked and—can it be?—smiling. They field calls about misplaced packages and gluten-free dough, while surrounded by orange and red Thanksgiving decorations and a wall lined with baking gear that they’re allowed to borrow. They still have quotas—10 calls per hour, per agent—but they know they won’t get fired if they spend 45 minutes talking to a woman with cancer about baking, as one agent recently did.

An Answer to the Novel’s Detractors

old-booksBefore we rush to condemn whole-hog the novel’s supposedly obsolete conventions, we ought look at how they function and what they do well.
Less than a hundred years ago, D.H. Lawrence called the novel “the highest form of human expression so far attained.” Jane Austen said that it had nothing to recommend it but “genius, wit and taste.” Today, even novelists themselves—maybe especially novelists themselves—are unlikely to make such large and unironic claims in favor of their art. It is no coincidence that many of the most exciting novels to have appeared in recent years—Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, Ben Lerner’s “10:04” and Sheila Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?”—have been distinctly un-novelistic, featuring protagonists who share many biographical details (and sometimes names) with the authors, and substituting the messiness of experience for conventional plots. Such “novels from life,” as Heti’s book was subtitled, reflect the authors’ exasperation with fictional artifice. “Just the thought of writing fiction, just the thought of fabricated character in a fabricated plot made me feel nauseous,” Knausgaard wrote in the second volume of “My Struggle.”
gotham105warehousemooney7598hires2jpg-9a7128_960wIs there anyone watching Gotham who could concisely summarize what’s going on in the show’s central overarching storyline—about the mob war between Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni? The war connects to everything: the police corruption that plagues our protagonist Jim Gordon, the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the machinations of lieutenants Fish Mooney and the Penguin. It’s tough to keep track of the sheer amount of behind-the-scenes machinations, and it’s tougher still to care. The show may even realize this. Ten episodes in, as it prepares to take a break until January, Gotham has transferred Gordon to work at Arkham Asylum among the city’s stranger criminals. That’s a promising new direction.

interstellar-poster11Interstellar, the new film directed by Christopher Nolan, attempts to say something profound about human relationships and meaning, a goal that by itself is worth celebrating. What the film tries to say is a little more ambiguous.

If Interstellar were a religious text, the dogma it encodes could be called something like “scientific romanticism.” This belief system would hold that science will solve all of our problems one day, even the ones that by definition resist empirical observation and thus exist outside the purview of science (see Sagan’s Contact for another dogmatic specimen). Scientific romanticism works well as a narratival contrivance, but when employed to spice up the lives atheists who otherwise think that they have a clearer-headed view of the universe than those troglodytic believers, it can expose the scarcity of meaning available to those who eschew belief in God.

The limits of buzz: How DC comics is winning its war with Marvel — on television

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Marvel Studios’ announcement this week about what we can expect for the next nine years generated a lot of excitement — and for good reason. Marvel is finally bringing a film about a female superhero to the silver screen with Captain Marvel, and a black superhero, with Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. Marvel knows how to create buzz and market its films — not just each individual one, but the whole collection of them. Each film lays groundwork for the next; each has inside jokes that only make sense if you’ve seen the previous. And audiences love it: A quick scan of the box office take for all of Marvel Studios’ films offers very, very big numbers. Maybe it’s not worth the hype, maybe the films could be better, maybe film franchises are destroying cinema. But it’s working.

It’s interesting, then, that Marvel’s success with film doesn’t translate to television. And I don’t mean that Marvel’s one television show airing right now — the awkwardly titled “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” on ABC — is necessarily bad; it’s not great, but it’s fine. It’s more that DC, the Red Sox to Marvel’s Yankees, is absolutely killing it on television.

Fury at the Cross(roads): The Gospel in the Violence of History

1231428-furyThe most religious film many moviegoers will see this year will not be an inspirational story from a faith-based production company; it will be writer-director David Ayer’s WWII tank combat epic Fury. And in some ways Fury is also a more compelling narrative about redemption than many of the sermons preached from Church pulpits on any given Sunday.

Fury is a slice-of-combat-life story that follows a few days’ action of a Sherman tank crew during the final campaign against Germany in April, 1945. The battle has turned into a seemingly interminable contest in which a defeated opponent refuses to quit, exacting casualties in pointless resistance. War weariness has exhausted not only men and equipment, but innocence and ideals. But Ayer, reportedly a Christian himself, isn’t just telling another war story. He is embedding and embodying the intersection of the grace of God with human history, history at its most violent and hellish.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review

xmen-daysAfter the disappointing Last Stand, the X-Men franchise was at a crossroads; how to revitalize a once promising film series and breathe new life into something that, up till that point had been fantastic comic book cinema. Matthew Vaughn was chosen to helm First Class and the finished product was everything the name implied. As the next film began the percolate and Matthew Vaughn exited the project, fans were worried that the the series would once again flounder. Bryan Singer, director of X1 and X2, was tapped to return and with him brought us a film that rivals First Class for one of the top spots in comic book movie rankings. Days of Future Past is a film that utilizes the best of the original cast and the newest film to create a mind-bending tale of time travel as well as resetting the X-Men film universe for the future. The Quicksilver scene is alone worth the price of admission. If you have not seen Days of Future Past, do! This film is sure to entertain as well as leave you thinking as you walk out of the theater for weeks to follow.

Hope

One of the hallmarks of the X-Men series has be Professor Xavier’s ability to hope when all seems lost. In this film, we learn why. In the future,  Sentinels have all but eradicated mutants as well as all people who would help them. There is one play the mutants have; send Wolverine back into his past self to stop Mystique from killing a weapons specialist who’s life work will turn into the Sentinels. Wolverine will also need to revive Xavier, who after the events of First Class has lost his abilities (the drug he takes to allow him to walk impairs his mental powers) and his school because of the Vietnam draft. Xavier has lost all hope in the world as well as himself and has descended into wallowing in self-pity and self-loathing. Through his interaction with Wolverine, who allows him to communicate with Xavier in the future, he is able to regain his focus and his hope. It is a powerful scene with the reminder that one cannot live long without hope. Peter reminds believers of this in his first letter when he says,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Belief

There is little in this world that is more harmful to a person than a loss of belief in themselves or the idea that no one else believes in them. Mystique is on the brink. She believes that she is forever set and cannot go back to who she use to be. Estranged from Xavier and betrayed by Magneto, she sees no options for herself. Xavier makes a statement midway through the film in reference to her, “Just because someone stumbles and loses their way doesn’t mean they are lost forever “. What a beautiful, gospel-filled message that no matter what someone has done, they are not beyond salvation. There is nothing more powerful than the cross of Christ and it is only when we loose sight of that, that we write people off. Xavier realizes at the end of the film that he has been trying to control Mystique instead of believing in her. His ultimate act of giving her the choice in the end brings to light the admonition that people cannot be force into something. Cohesion or control are never effective in winning the hearts and minds of people. It is only through love, belief and authentic relationship that people can change.

Conclusion

The X-Men series is at the top of it’s game. With Apocalypse as the storyline for the next film and a focus on the First Class iteration of characters, the series looks to be poised for greatness once again.

Christmastime is Here; Happiness and Cheer?

charlie_LinusCharlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.

Charlie Brown: I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.

Linus Van Pelt: Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.

Christmas is usually my favorite time of year. I love the music, trees, lights, parties, the lot. Something about this year has been different and I’m not sure what it is. I haven’t wanted to listen to the music as much or watch the dozens of Christmas movies I usually do. Figuring out why, has been a different matter altogether. Maybe it’s because I’m single, maybe it’s the fact that in spite of the all-too-brief ice-pocalypse the Dallas weather has felt more like Spring or maybe it’s because there is the pressure this time of year to be happy more than any other; all of these could be the reason for my holiday haze.

With these thoughts in mind, I’ve been traveling back to the first Christmas in the Gospels. What I have been struck by is how unfettered they are by the false facade we have built around this holiday. Think about it. A wearly couple arrives in a backwater Judean town on it’s busiest night in years. The census has created a metropolis out of this one-stop-light village. The sound of full inns and family homes bursting at the seams with noisy relatives spills out into the dusty streets as the couple look for any place to stay.

The unwed mother’s delivery is imminent as her frantic betrothed looks for any place he can find for her to rest and bring his adopted son into the world. They are alone; this might be their ancestral village, but there is no family left here to call on. The betrothed finally finds a place, its a stable. There is nothing cute or clean about this place. This is no Disney-ized version of a barnyard; it is smelly and dirty as animals wander in and out of the stable. The teenage mother is about to give birth and her betrothed must help. There is not midwife tonight and he will see things that most Jewish men of his time would not, the birth of his child. There is no glamor or calm, only the screams of a mother, ready to have her child out of her. She’s in pain and there are no drugs to help her and straw is only so comfortable to lay on.

It’s over, the baby is here and yes he’s screaming. The sound of his cries mingles with that of the animals as well as the city. The world is unaware of what just happened. The Word became flesh. To anyone that night, it was unremarkable, no one cared. The mother wraps her child in cloth against the night and the betrothed leans back in the straw, exhausted.

nativityThere are no carols or lights, no trees or parties, the Savior comes into the world and no one knows. That is at least until angels appear to social outcasts on the fringes of town and declare that the Savior, which is Christ the Lord has been born. The mother and her betrothed, so alone this night must have been shocked as these men came into the stable to worship their child. From the beginning, the Savior was healing the marginalized and reaching out to the broken. These miscreants were the first evangelists; heralding through the streets that night, to anyone that would listen, that the world was forever changed because of a baby born that night.

This is what the season is all about. It’s not about candy-cane smiles and tinsel-hanging happiness, it’s about hope for the hopeless. Joy to the world, the Lord is come, not so we can have our best life now but so we can have our best life for eternity. God came down, born into extreme poverty and lived as one of us.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV)

He was rejected and alone, even his closest friends would abandon him in his greatest hour of need. Without the cross, Christmas means nothing. So, if you are feeling a lack of Christmas spirit, remember that it’s not about the commercialized racket, it’s about a baby that was born to die. And through his death and resurrection anyone can have life and have it abundantly. Joy to the world indeed.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

From “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”