Christmas/Advent Discipleship

May the Force be with You!

Those angels outside Bethlehem could have been Jewish Jedis when they came with their greeting that was essentially, "May the Force be with you" -- that is, may the Peace or Shalom of God be with all upon whom God's favor rests (cf. Luke 2:14)!

I took my 8-year old son Peter to see the latest Star Wars movie over Christmas break. I’m no fanatic; just a casual viewer up for any daddy-don cinematic adventure that promises popcorn and a soda for $30…

Whenever a Jedi says, “May the Force be with you,” folks who grew up in a liturgical church like me can’t help muttering back, “And also with you.” I can still hear the church organ piping up.

My Christmas Eve sermon preparation was on my mind as I ate each 25-cent kernel of popcorn and took each 50 cent sip of soda. This Christmas I was hovering over the great theme of peace, or shalom, and how badly our world needs to be doused with a firehose of heaven-sent shalom to put out all the fiery flames of fear-mongering and contentiousness these days.

Those angels outside Bethlehem could have been Jewish Jedis when they appeared with their own greeting that was essentially, “May the Force be with you.” That is, may the peace of God be upon all on whom God’s favor rests (cf. Luke 2:14)!

Each New Year I invite my congregation to seek God for one word to guide them this next year. In my search for my own 1-word, peacemakers is near the top of the list — especially as we enter another election year. We need to “let the peace of Christ hold the highest elected office of our heart” (Col. 3:15 my paraphrase) as we wade through the sludge of political debate.

We also need to become agents who actively bring the Shalom of Christ into the fray. “Blessed are the peace-makers” (Matt 5:9), not the peace-keepers who stick their heads in the sand and passively avoid tough topics, nor the peace-takers advancing our new national pastime of partisan brow beating and around the clock peace-stealing.

What does it look like to raise up an army of peacemakers who bring the Christoform politics and values of the Kingdom of God, and the attitude and posture of the Prince of Peace himself into our homes, our workplaces, and our public witness this year?

Sometimes a silly visual stays with us longer than a profound string of words. A Christian video game was recently released called I Am Jesus that puts the player in the body of Jesus. Instead of going around blasting hostiles with a machine gun like many games, this game has Jesus’ glowing hands going around blessing, healing and casting out demons with his divine power.

As cheesy as this image is, I think Christ-followers would do well to imagine themselves as each equipped with a “Shalom Blaster” as they go out the door each day. Are we being faithful dispensers of God’s healing peace, or are we adding fuel to the flames? Are we blasting our enemies with rounds of agape, or joining in the choir of “noisy gongs and clanging cymbals” (1 Cor 13).

LEADER: May the gentle Force of God’s Shalom be with you!

ALL: And also with you!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jeremy Berg is the founding pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Mound, Minnesota, and Professor of Theology at Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy is completing his doctorate in New Testament Context under Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary in Chicago. He holds a M.A. in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary (2005) and B.A. from Bethel University (2002). He and his wife, Kjerstin, keep busy chasing around three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

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