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Having seen The Last Jedi twice, and having read numerous interpretations and critiques, I admit I enjoyed the film. I know I’m not supposed to like it—I guess real fans are supposed to be upset with the Marvelesque attempts at humor. Strange, the reason Han Solo is the heart and soul of the Star Wars films is because of his humor. “Laugh it up, fuzz ball!” anyone? I’ve read a couple of articles that point out the subversive message of The Last Jedi. There’s the democratization of the force, the suggestion that the Jedi religion is responsible for creating the dark side, and a clear call to cut ties with the past—not to mention the feminist challenge to the white patriarchy of the First Order. For me, this supports my theological interpretation—The Last Jedi is eschatological, which ties in nicely with the Old Testament Advent readings from the prophet Isaiah.

Throughout Advent I have been preaching on the Isaiah texts. In Isaiah 64 the prophet calls on the Lord to tear open the heavens, to upset the current order and bring forth something new. The prophet wants the Lord to flip the world upside down and restore justice and peace. In Isaiah 40 the prophet announces the word of the Lord that declares a highway is to be built through the desert, flattening the mountains and raising the valleys, making a road to Zion. Isaiah 61 declares Jubilee—freedom for the captives and healing for those in need. All of this speaks to the disruption of the old order for the purpose of bringing forth a new way of life. It’s a gospel declaration of salvation through disruption, bringing down the powerful and raising up the poor. At least, that’s the way Mary described it.

A similar message is at the heart of The Last Jedi. The old order—the Jedi, the Sith, the Empire and First Order, even the leadership of the Resistance—must all give way to something new. The force is no longer reserved for those who have a particular bloodline or last name; The Last Jedi moves the force away from the Skywalker family to Rey and others. Peace is not found by reclaiming some past magic or traditional way of life—the way forward is by burning it all down, making way for something new. That’s eschatological. That’s Isaiah.

The most interesting dialogue takes place between two old friends. Yoda appears, chastising Luke for holding on to the past, for being too concerned with the ancient Jedi texts. (“Page turners they are not.”) His message?: The future of the galaxy is no longer bound up with Luke, the son of Skywalker; the future now rests with young Rey. “We are what they grow beyond,” Yoda tells Luke, “That is the true burden of all masters.”

This is also the message of Christmas. It’s the message the angels declare to the shepherds, and it’s the message that Mary ponders in her heart. The baby in the manger is the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, but it moves far beyond anyone’s expectations. The baby in the manger is the new order that dissolves the old as the Christ child ushers in a new way of life by shattering every religious, political, and cultural expectation. Too often, like Luke, we want to hold on to the past, mistaking tradition for the true meaning of faith. The reality is that we too must die so we can be born again; we must take up our cross so we can be raised to new life.

So sing it out this Christmas season—Joy to the world! The first order is dead, and the new order has begun. May grace, peace, and the force, be with us all.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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