Heaven & Nature Sing
Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Our family is a huge fan of Star Wars so the last few years we buy our tickets months in advance, the day they go on sale, and we get the best seats in the house. After my family patiently waits for me to create the perfect combination of buttered and salted theatre popcorn, we take our recliners and settle in for the sci-fi blockbuster.
The music and bright yellow lettering of that opening scene harken me to the spring of `77 and my first memories of Star Wars movie-going. This final installment, The Rise of Skywalker, did not disappoint. J.J. Abrams shows off his filmmaking prowess which includes a posthumous performance by Carrie Fisher. We all agreed that we want to see it again on the big screen to better absorb all the details.
This franchise has weathered five decades, bringing us such iconic characters as the beloved Chewie, the mysterious Yoda, the weird Jar Jar Binks and the grotesque Jabba the Hutt. Clearly, George Lucas is a wizard of storytelling, creating an epic world immersed in deep allegorical themes of dark, light and the force.
One recurring theme--whether Anakin, the original bad guy, aka Darth Vader or Rey, the reigning Jedi of our day--is the foundational question of origins. Who am I? The existential angst of Rey, the heroine of the Star Wars finale, plays out until the final scene when [SPOILER ALERT] she finally declares her true identity, and it’s adoption, not biology that rules the day.
The story of our birth, our biology, doesn’t necessarily define us. That any one of us can become adopted into another family is a beautiful reality. My dear niece, Jordyn, and my best friend’s son, Madison, were both born to men who could not be the father they needed. Each of them—when they were five-years-old—was blessed to have another man step up to the awesome opportunity and adopt them. Kevin and Mike are wonderful men and fathers.
But, in one particular birth, biology absolutely matters. And even then, an amazing adoptive father—Joseph—played an instrumental role. The first century writer Matthew details these historically accurate events in order that we know who—in fact—Yeshua/Jesus is. Unlike ours, the ancestry of the Incarnate One/The Son of God is absolutely necessary to his legitimacy.
Matthew spells out Yeshua’s genealogy in 42 generations and spares no detail as this storied lineage includes five women who have colorful and somewhat scandalous backgrounds. I encourage you to read the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke, aloud with someone you love, to get a well-rounded picture of just who it is that this Christmas season is all about.
May the true force of all good, Immanuel/God With Us/The Word Made Flesh, inform every day and season of your life. May the Redeemer live within you. May you know the one who is the True Light of the World, in whom we have true shalom/peace and joy.
Merry Christmas, from me, Linus and the Oh Hellos!
"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' (Luke 2:8-14) That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” ~ Linus
Here is my favorite Christmas song of ALL-TIME, Joy to the World, remixed by a favorite band, The Oh Hellos. This is Mvmt IV, "Every Bell On Earth Will Ring" from The Oh Hellos' Family Christmas Album:
Joy to the world! the Lord is come Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing! ~Isaac Watts
Happy Hannukah/Feast of Dedication
Our family is not Jewish. My wonderful husband Scott is very, well, Scottish. His paternal grandmother was born in Troon, Scotland. And now I know—since opening up my DNA results just the other day—that I am decidedly not Jewish either. Consistent with my adoption paperwork, I am very English.
No matter. I love, honor and adore a Jewish man who also just happens to be, well, God. I know that my true identity is in my adoption—earthly and heavenly. I am Bennie and Bonnie Shellnut’s daughter and I am also a child of God. Every morning, I awake to an iPhone alarm that describes my essence: Arise & Bless the Lord, Daughter of the King. In Yeshua there is no distinction--Jew or Gentile--for we are all one in Messiah.
Since discovering the richness and beauty of the Jewish traditions about a decade ago, we have adopted some of them as an overlay to our Christian faith. Tradition--as the character Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, reminds us--bring balance. Religion is from the same root word as ligament, it is what binds us and holds us together.
Though Hanukkah is not a Biblical appointed time, like Passover or Yom Kippur, it still involves deep symbolism and has rich prophetic significance. Hundreds of years before the Torah-loving Maccabees won a great victory against overhwelming odds, the prophet Daniel foretold the events with stunning clarity.
Any holiday involving candles, potato pancakes (sour cream or applesauce? yes!), donuts and gambling for chocolate coins is an instant winner in my book. The latke, sufganiyot and gelt are modern-day conventions, but the oil- or candle-filled hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah) strikes at the roots of this holiday's inception.
The story of Hanukkah is one of light overcoming darkness. It begins on the 25th of Kislev, this year that's tonight. (Coincidence that Christmas was later set on the 25th of December?) The eight-day celebration is marked by blessings as we begin by lighting one candle and then an additional one each night. The events memorialized by the Festival of Lights have all the trappings of an epic saga—tyrannical king, oppressed people, stolen goods, a small band of freedom fighters overthrowing a massive army, a great celebration.
The Hebrew Nes Gadol Hayah Sham means “A Great Miracle Happened Here” and it is a common phrase remembered during Hanukkah. That miracle occurred some 160 years before Yeshua’s birth. During his ministry, when he was at the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, he reaffirmed his identity. His miraculous conception, life, death and resurrection confirm his declaration, “I and the Father are one.”
He offers each of us the miraculous gift of redemption. He stands waiting. Be earnest and repent, he says. Open the door, let him in. A feast awaits. You don’t want to miss this! Adoption into his family is awesome! Though it came at great cost to Him, he offers it freely. You won’t find a purer love, a greater joy or a deeper peace anywhere else.
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
A Favorite Hanukkah Jam for Your Donuts
"Matisyahu has released a brand new Chanukah song, Miracle, on iTunes. An uplifting pop gem arriving just in time for the holiday, Miracle, produced by Dr. Luke protégé Kool Kojak is drenched in a joyful spirit and features chiming synths, bouncing beats and an irresistible chorus." (YouTube Channel)
A Capella Star Wars Hanukkah Parody
Six13, a six-man a cappella vocal band share A Star Wars Chanukah
A winter's walk with my honey at Marshbank; Spry kids nonchalantly posing for mom; Aaron and Bailey grinning at Hamoa Beach; Bailey & Dege at Ono Farms' Christmas party; Dege on the surf of Maui...
(video credit, John Spencer)