Over the past month I have introduced my wife to the movies in The Avengers series. These movies include Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers. All of these movies, based on the popular comic books of the same name, have come out in the last five to six years. I have also introduced her to the Hunger Games series. Yesterday, we went to watch the second installment of that series, titled Catching Fire. As I left the theatre yesterday with a smile because I loved the movie, I started to think about the popularity of both the Hunger Games series and The Avengers series. What is it about these movies, these stories that draw so many people to go see them? On the surface someone not familiar with them might immediately draw upon our society’s obsession with action movies. While there is a case to be made for that (I’ll let someone else write about that), I think there is something deeper going on. In my opinion, we all want to be saved. Our fascination with characters like Thor, Iron Man, and Katniss Everdeen is that they are symbols of salvation. The TV show Smallville, chronicling the early years of Clark Kent aka Superman, starts out with the band Remy Zero singing out “Somebody Save Me!” Most of us should also be familiar with the 80’s hit Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler, a song that begins with this verse:
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need
We all are waiting to be saved, but from what you ask. I would say name it and we want to be saved from it. Poverty, hunger, war, diseases, famine, depression, loneliness, addiction, hurt, anger, fear, and of course the list could go on and on. In an effort to save ourselves from whatever it is that afflicts us, we will search high and low to find salvation. What we so often see is that we turn to the things that cannot offer the salvation that we seek. In all of our attempts to save ourselves we fall short. And so when we go to watch a superhero movie our reality is suspended for a couple of hours. During that time we can live in a world where Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America can save us from whatever peril awaits.
What Advent reminds us of is where true salvation is found, that being through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is during this season that we celebrate the arrival of Jesus as a helpless babe over two centuries ago. In this season we remember why it is that Jesus came to us in earthly form. He came that all of creation would be reconciled to God. He came to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to seek and save the lost. While we know that Jesus has already come, we wait because he has promised to return. At his first arrival the kingdom of God drew near to us but it is not yet complete and so we wait for that day when the restoration is made complete.
We wait, and wait, and wait for Jesus to return. I’m sure it frustrates many people that he has not yet come back. And we do not know when he will return to us, that date is unknown to anyone but God the Father. While we wait we grow tired, bored, angry, and annoyed. We cry out to God to simply save us from all the pain, death, destruction, and evil we see in the world around. I wonder if we secretly hope that Jesus will come out of the sky like Thor or Iron Man to do away with the evil forces in this world. I wonder if we’re waiting for someone like Katniss Everdeen to provide us with inspiration. Our growing frustration can leave us feeling abandoned and hopeless. Yet, we are reminded this season of the promise made to us, a promise that will be fulfilled when Jesus does return.
That promise should allow us to look forward in hope. That hope should move us. We need not to sit idly while we wait for Jesus to return. Our hope in what is to come should inspire us to bring snack size pieces of the coming kingdom into our world now. The Advent season for me is a reminder to be on watch for the ways in which I can share God’s love and mercy with the community that surrounds me. I can change the world around me and I don’t have to be a superhero to do it.